Furor shouldn’t keep Burris from doing his job

Written by Janet

In spite of all the furor surrounding Sen. Roland Burris, experts say Illinois is unlikely to suffer much from having a senator who’s getting the cold shoulder from colleagues and faces constant calls for his resignation.

By law, he can still vote and serve on committees.  He also can help constituents getting the run-around from government bureaucrats. Experts say he’ll probably be able to bring home money for Illinois.  As long as he’s senator, he can still accomplish things for his state.

Even Sen. Dick Durbin, who says his fellow Illinois Democrat should consider resigning, promised to continue working with Burris – and ensure his home state isn’t left wanting.

But under normal circumstances, Burris would hardly be a major power.  He’s among the newest members in an institution built around seniority, and other Illinoisans have far more influence in Washington – notably President Barack Obama, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Durbin, who’s in his 13th year in the Senate.

Burris was appointed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich just before Blagojevich was tossed out of office over allegations he tried to sell the Senate appointment. Senate leaders agreed to accept Burris’ appointment only if he gave a full explanation of his contacts with the Blagojevich administration.

He testified he had spoken to only one Blagojevich ally about the Senate seat and that there was no discussion of him doing any favors for the governor.  After he took office, he changed his story.  He talked to several people close to Blagojevich and looked into raising money for the governor but couldn’t find anyone willing to donate.

This has been met with outrage, and many Illinois politicians are asking for his resignation.  Burris is taking great pains to demonstrate he’s going about business as usual. He named a chief of staff and communications director Wednesday and gave a two-minute speech from the Senate floor in support of a voting rights bill before presiding over the Senate for an hour, a tradition for freshmen lawmakers.

Another senator who defied calls for his resignation was Larry Craig, who was accused of soliciting sex in an airport bathroom in June 2007. The Idaho Republican served out the rest of his term despite pressure from party leaders.

Bryan McQuide, a political science professor at the University of Idaho, said Craig lost a great deal of clout because he was stripped of committee chairmanships. Burris doesn’t have any chairmanships to lose.  In the meantime, McQuide said, Illinois has at least one senator at full strength.

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