Democratic leaders on Wednesday softened their opposition to seating former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris, who was appointed by scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid said Burris could be cleared to serve in the Senate if Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White signs a form approving his appointment. (Chicago Tribune)
What the commentators said
It's about time Democrats faced reality, said Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune. Burris has the law on his side—despite Blagojevich's corruption scandal, he has the right to appoint Obama's successor. Democrats are riding high, so it would be silly to get distracted by "a long and acrimonious intra-party fight over Burris."
"This drama had plenty of ugly moments," said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, but the low point came Tuesday when Democratic leaders closed the Capitol door on Burris, forcing him to hold a press conference in the rain. The antics made it look like Democrats "were putting politics above the law," but at least now it looks like Burris will get his rightful seat.
Legally, demanding the secretary of state's signature is "kind of shaky," said Gail Collins in The New York Times. But, on the plus side, Burris is not corrupt. And approving the man who would be the Senate's only African-American member would at least "make Rush Limbaugh stop calling Harry Reid a racist," so I say give the guy the seat.
"Reid and Illinois' other Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin are clearly attempting to find an escape tunnel out of their own PR mess," said Andrew Malcolm in the Los Angeles Times. But tossing the hot potato to Secretary of State White doesn't end the embarrassment. White, who has said any Blagojevich appointment would be tainted, claims his signature isn't necessary. The bottom line is that Reid loses, and Burris gets seated.
Not so fast, said Roger Simon in Politico. Making nice with Burris isn't the same as letting him in the club. Burris is "a willing accomplice in a tainted process," and he'll have to make it clear back home that he made no deals with Blagojevich. Next he has to get approved by the Rules Committee, and then the ball's in the court of the full Senate, and "balls can sometimes bounce slowly there."