President-elect Barack Obama waded into a racially tinged dispute Tuesday over who would replace him as the only black senator, siding forcefully with Senate Democrats in rejecting the respected African-American chosen by scandal-tainted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
While praising Blagojevich's pick, former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, Obama and Senate Democratic leaders said federal corruption charges against the governor place the nominee under an ethical cloud.
Obama's statement reads:
- "Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy," said President-elect Obama.
Even before the appointment was official, Senate leaders said they would refuse to seat Burris because of the scandal surrounding Blagojevich. State leaders also backed that up, with the Illinois secretary of state refusing to certify the appointment on paper.