Now he's got spots on some top Senate committees and is in the position to help shape legislation on foreign affairs and domestic security.
The Senate approved a resolution Wednesday night setting committee assignments for the 111th Congress, and Burris is now poised to serve on the Armed Services Committee, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Committee on Veterans Affairs.
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain swapped committee assignments, signaling he wants to play a larger role this Congress on energy and healthcare issues.
But he jumped onto three new panels: Energy and Natural Resources; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
In exchange, he left his post on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.