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Showdown Looms in Senate as Burris Insists Seat Is His

Jan. 4: Roland Burris prays at the New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago the night before leaving for Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

Calling himself "the magic man," Roland Burris on Monday said he is going to Capitol Hill to be seated as the next senator from Illinois. 

Burris remains defiant as he prepares to claim the post that Senate Democrats have vowed to deny him. He said Monday, as he arrived at an airport just outside Washington, that he is "ready, willing and able" to serve as senator. 

The Senate was scheduled to convene at noon Tuesday with its newest members. Yet the controversy over the appointment of Burris by a governor accused of trying to sell the old seat of President-elect Barack Obama and the ongoing dispute over election results in Minnesota practically guaranteed that both seats would remain empty by day's end.

The former Illinois attorney general said the appointment by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is entirely legal and that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has threatened to bar Burris from the Senate, does not know the law. 

"This is all politics and theater, but I am the junior senator according to every law book in the nation," Burris said before boarding his flight to the nation's capital. "This appointment is legal. What don't you all understand that what has been done here is legal? That's legal."

Burris signaled late Monday that he would not breach protocol by attempting to walk onto the Senate floor on Tuesday uninvited.

"I'm not going to make a scene," Burris said. "I don't want to give you all a circus."

Burris' appointment is under fire as Blagojevich faces a possible indictment and impeachment for allegedly trying to sell the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, among other issues. 
Senate Democratic leaders said Burris is welcome to come to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, but he will not be permitted in the Senate chamber. 

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said Burris lacks the necessary documentation to enter the chamber, since Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has so far refused to sign his certificate of appointment. Durbin said Burris is welcome to watch the swearing-in ceremony from an office just off the Senate floor.

Durbin reiterated that Democrats have no qualms with Burris. But he said, "Questions can legitimately be raised about the appointment by this governor." 

Durbin said Burris must also testify Thursday before the impeachment committee weighing whether to oust Blagojevich. 

"The whole thing is just a mess," Durbin said.

Burris, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, said he hasn't spoken to Blagojevich in the past few days and has no intention to do so, but asked why he should have to ignore the governor.
"Why should I separate myself from Rod Blagojevich? ... He carried out his duties and he filled his vacancies according to law. Isn't that correct? Isn't that what the statute says -- that 'the governor shall appoint a person to fulfill the vacancy.' It didn't say anything about being tainted or being associated with or being" stigmatized, he said.

Calling White his friend, Burris said he is not angry at White or anyone else, but his refusal to sign the paperwork isn't going to stop him from getting his seat.

Burris said if Reid and others refuse to seat him, he will let his attorneys take it from there. Burris attorney Tim Wright told FOX News on Sunday that he thinks the case is clearly one that would be taken by the U.S. Supreme Court as precedent has been set and Burris qualifies under constitutional guidelines.

Meanwhile, an Illinois House panel convened to review impeachment of Blagojevich has subpoenaed Burris. He said he would return to Springfield on Thursday to appear before the panel.

"I am the magic man," he said of splitting his time between Washington and Springfield. "I am a United States senator. (The House panel) cannot stop me from doing my senatorial duties."
Burris is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Reid and Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

One senior Democratic leadership aide told FOX News the conversation will be about calming the situation and trying to get Burris to see that a fight will get him nowhere. 

"We have to get Burris to see that there are no other options than getting (Lt. Gov. Pat) Quinn to name Burris to the seat," the aide said. 

Quinn is known to be close to Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., who was previously considered to be a contender for Obama's seat. But the aide said Democrats will try to convince Quinn to seat Burris, instead, as a placeholder for two years if Quinn is to succeed Blagojevich. 

Another Democratic leadership aide told FOX News this would allow the Democratic campaign committee to recruit a candidate, possibly even Davis, and raise money for the 2010 race. 
Republicans continue to insist that the only fair way to resolve this issue is to hold a special election.

Appearing on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Reid appeared to waver about seating Burris, saying, "There's always room to negotiate." 

Asked about whether he would accept conditions that might be placed on his being seated -- like not running in 2010 when voters would get to elect the state's senator -- Burris said he doesn't negotiate in the press.

"Let me get in and get seated and let me get my Senate legs under me and we'll decide that later on," he said.

Burris also rejected suggestions that a racial bias was underlying the refusal to seat him. Burris would be the only African American in the Senate, replacing the previous sole African American in the Senate.

"I have never in my life and all of my years of being elected to office thought anything about race. I have been elected four times from the state of Illinois as the great people of Illinois have seen the qualifications and commitment that Roland Burris has, and race has never been a concern of mine. ... As a matter of fact I have looked upon the state of Illinois as the only state in the nation, think about this, that has elected four blacks statewide -- two United States senators and two constitutional officers," he said. 

FOX News' Trish Turner and the Associated Press contributed to this report.