For the past week, the scandal-ridden Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick of Roland Burris to fill President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat threatened to distract an indignant Senate. But with legislators eager to get started on the myriad crises facing the country, the standoff has ended.
Blagojevich, arrested on corruption charges in early December, remains governor of Illinois despite his indictment and impeachment by the Illinois House of Representatives. Even though his crimes allegedly included attempting to sell off Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder, he has retained the rights of his office—including appointing someone to the seat.
His pick, Burris, was denied entry to the Senate last week when his certificate of appointment was rejected by the office of the secretary.
Controversy over whether to accept the scandal-scarred governor's appointee reached a head in heated debates on Sunday evening. Some lawmakers had said they'd never seat Blagojevich's appointee. But with the country in the midst of an economic recession, others thought that dragging the appointment out could be an unwelcome distraction.
The issue of race made the situation even more sensitive, as Burris would be the only black senator.
Within the week, Democrats reversed their position. They'd already scaled their objections back last week to requiring a three-step process validating Burris's appointment to seat him.
And yesterday, they took out one of those steps—then said that Burris's appointment, based on the credentials presented in the other two steps, was valid.
A joint statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Whip Richard Durbin said that Burris "is now the senator-designate from Illinois and as such will be accorded all the rights and privileges of a senator-elect."