WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. Roland Burris refused to resign on
Tuesday, rebuffing a call from the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, who
argued that the embattled Illinois lawmaker has little hope next
year of winning the seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
"I told him that under the circumstances, I would resign,"
fellow Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin told reporters after an
hour-long meeting with Burris. "He said, 'I'm not going to
"I can't force him," Durbin added.
Burris, also a Democrat, was appointed by disgraced former Gov.
Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and driven from office after he
was accused of trying to sell the Senate seat.
Burris repeatedly changed his story about how he was appointed.
He is facing calls for his resignation after he admitted trying to
raise money for Blagojevich.
"I did nothing wrong, Jesse. I did nothing wrong," Burris told
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., as the two shook hands at Obama's
address to Congress. Jackson sought the Senate seat until his name
surfaced in the probe of Blagojevich. He denies promising anything
to Blagojevich in return.
Only a few hours earlier, Durbin made it as plain during an
hour-long private meeting that he felt Burris should resign, that
Democrats are concerned about the reports surrounding his
appointment and that Burris would have a hard time serving
constituents under the circumstances.
Burris left through a side door and was briefly trapped by
reporters as he waited for an elevator. He said he had been ordered
not to comment other than to say the session was a "great
Burris has faced intense pressure from all quarters, from
politicians to home state newspapers to black ministers clamoring
for him to step down. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said last week Burris
should resign for the good of the state, arguing that the
controversy surrounding his appointment has cast a shadow over his
service in the Senate.
In their meeting, Durbin said he told Burris that support among
other Democrats was eroding because of Burris' shifting account of
whether he tried to raise money for Blagojevich.
And in the careful language of the Senate, Durbin said he made
clear that if Burris tried to run for the seat next year, he would
not have much - if any - support from Senate Democrats. Consistent
with a Senate appointment, Burris would have to win the seat
outright next year.
"I asked him if he would be a candidate in 2010 and he said he
had not made up his mind," Durbin said. "I told him I thought it
would be extremely difficult for him to be successful in a primary
or a general election under the circumstances."
The conversation followed Burris' exchange earlier in the day
with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the Senate
"I said, 'How was your break?' He said, 'Fine. How was
yours?"' Reid told reporters afterward. "I said, 'Fine.' OK?"
Asked whether Reid thinks that Burris should resign, spokesman
Jim Manley said: "That is for him to decide."
The chilliness that greeted Burris in Washington came after
outright demands for his resignation in Illinois.
Burris testified in January before the Illinois House committee
that recommended Blagojevich's impeachment that he hadn't had
contact with key Blagojevich staffers or offered anything in return
for the seat. Blagojevich faces charges of trying to sell Obama's
former Senate seat, though he denies wrongdoing.
But just more than a week ago, Burris released an affidavit
saying he had spoken to several Blagojevich advisers, including
Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and finance
chairman, who Burris said called three times last fall asking for
He changed his story again last week when he admitted trying,
unsuccessfully, to raise money for Blagojevich.
Illinois lawmakers have asked local prosecutors to look into
perjury charges, and a preliminary Senate Ethics Committee inquiry
is under way. Even the White House said last week that Burris
should take the weekend to consider his future.
"The national Democrats needed his vote, but they found that he
hung them out to dry," said Kent Redfield, a political science
professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield.