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Congress: Mr. Burris goes to DC

The man embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich chose to succeed Obama in the Senate -- Roland Burris -- today heads to Washington. Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune writes, Burris "sought spiritual and political sustenance tonight at a church on Chicago's South Side. Warm words of support and prayers for Roland Burris at New Covenant Church contrasted with the frigid reactions from Senate leaders, many of whom say his appointment by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is so badly stained that Burris shouldn't be seated when the new Congress convenes this week."

"Burris took the church stage to a crescendo of drums, organ music and applause from hundreds of supporters, including black leaders and ministers. 'The appointment is legal,' he said, thanking those gathered at the prayer service. 'That is all there is. I don't know what all the confusion is about.' Before the service, Burris supporter U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and about 60 ministers condemned Senate Democratic leaders for rejecting Burris. Rush, a Chicago Democrat, called the U.S. Senate 'the last bastion of plantation politics.' 'We are just faced with a hard-headed room of people in the Senate who want to keep an African-American out of the Senate,' Rush said."

"Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid defended his right to block the Senate appointment of former Illinois attorney general Roland W. Burris, but he didn't close the door entirely to Burris eventually getting the job," the Washington Post notes.

Here's what Reid said on Meet:
MR. GREGORY: But are you willing to go to the mat on this to deny Roland Burris, if it requires going to the Supreme Court? Is it worth that effort?
SEN. REID: The state of Illinois deserves a vote in the United States Senate, and the people of the state of Illinois, the fifth most populous state in the union, deserve that vote. It's too bad Blagojevich has diverted attention from the real issue. And we'll--we're--as I've indicated, we're going to come--I'm going to meet with Senator McConnell, my Republican counterpart. I hope to do that Monday evening. I think it's around 6:00 or something like that. We'll talk about this. I hope we can solve this issue on a bipartisan basis.
MR. GREGORY: But there sounds to me like there may be some room here to negotiate and actually seat Burris?
SEN. REID: Hey, listen, David, I'm an old trial lawyer. There's always room to negotiate.
MR. GREGORY: All right, so you're not saying no completely that he won't serve?
SEN. REID: That's right

How would the logistics work if Democrats tried to block Burris from the Senate seat? "Senate officials involved in the tangle of legal and logistical planning said yesterday that a Democrat will object to Burris being duly sworn with the rest of his class, and propose that his credentials be reviewed by the Rules Committee," the AP reports. "The only way Burris will be allowed on the floor is if he possesses a certification of appointment signed personally by his embattled patron, Blagojevich, and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who has refused to sign. Burris would then be treated as a senator-elect, which by tradition means he'll be allowed on the Senate floor without voting or speaking privileges -- and he wouldn't be granted a desk, according to the officials."

The New York Times: "Aides to Mr. Burris, a former Illinois attorney general who seemed to end his political career years ago after several defeats in his efforts to become governor of Illinois, have indicated that they were trying to talk to Senate leaders privately and wanted to avoid any public showdown."

Here are some of the dates for the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings:
-- Thursday, Jan. 8, 10:00 am ET: HHS: Tom Daschle (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee)
-- Friday, Jan. 9, 9:30 am ET: Rep. Hilda Solis (HELP Committee)
-- Tuesday, Jan. 13, 10:00 am ET: Education: Arne Duncan (HELP Committee)
-- Jan. 13: Energy Secretary: Steven Chu (Energy and Natural Resources Committee)
-- Jan. 14: Veteran Affairs: Gen. Eric Shinseki (Veterans' Affairs Committee)
-- Jan. 15: Interior: Senator Ken Salazar (Energy and Natural Resources Committee)
-- Jan. 15: Attorney General: Eric Holder (Judiciary Committee)

The New York Times has a fascinating profile of Nancy Pelosi as she prepares to play second fiddle Dem to Obama. "Aides and advisers say Ms. Pelosi is more than willing to follow Mr. Obama's lead and has already demonstrated a willingness to defer to him even on an issue of high import to her. While Ms. Pelosi has said she would prefer a quick legislative repeal of the Bush administration's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, she indicated that she would go along if Mr. Obama chooses to act more quickly through executive order."
 
"Yet tensions with the White House — even a White House run by one's own party — are inevitable as situations arise where the administration and members of Congress have conflicting priorities. Congressional Democrats and President Bill Clinton struggled at times during the two years that Democrats controlled Congress in the Clinton years. Even President Bush and Congressional Republicans clashed despite the willingness of those on Capitol Hill to give way regularly to the administration."

Rangel Watch: Charlie Rangel is still defending himself from allegations of fundraising improprieties. Given the Blagojevich situation and now the Richardson chatter, is Rangel even in more trouble? Will he have to temporarily give up his Ways and Means gavel at this critical time?