Published January 06, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Roland Burris said he is consulting with attorneys to determine his next move after he was prevented from taking Barack Obama's Senate seat Tuesday, but he maintained that he is the junior senator from Illinois.
Burris, in a brief press conference on Capitol Hill, said the secretary of the Senate did not accept his credentials and prevented him from being seated or even coming to the floor.
"I am not seeking to have any type of confrontation," he said, surrounded by reporters on a rainy day in Washington. Burris spoke shortly before the rest of the House and Senate convened for the 111th Congress.
But attorney Timothy Wright, referring to Burris as "senator," said the Senate acted "against the law of this land" in rejecting his client.
He said they are considering whether to take court action, try to convince Senate leaders to reverse their decision or pursue another option.
Burris was appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested last month and accused of trying to sell the vacated U.S. Senate seat previously held by President-elect Obama.
Senate Democratic leaders say Burris is not qualified to enter the Senate, in part because he is tainted by the governor's political scandal, and now because his certificate of appointment hasn't been signed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
"Mr. Burris is not in possession of the necessary credentials from the state of Illinois," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in his speech opening the new session of Congress.
But Blagojevich issued a written statement saying Illinois deserves to have two senators.
"Any allegations against me should not be held against him and especially not the people of Illinois," he said.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., one of Burris' top cheerleaders on Capitol Hill, accused the Senate leadership of racism Tuesday. Burris is black and if seated would be the only black member of the U.S. Senate, a distinction Obama once held.
"While they might not be termed racist, their action is racist," Rush told FOX News. "I think that if Roland Burris hadn't been an African American, then he would have been allowed to accept the appointment and become a senator."
Many lawmakers have dismissed Rush's warnings about race.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said it is important to "extract race from the process."
"With Barack Obama's election, there can be no such thing as a 'black' seat," Cleaver said.
Participating in the theatrics Tuesday, Burris was greeted on Capitol Hill by Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer, a door-keeper and an official from Reid's office, before going to the appointment desk on the third floor and to the secretary of the Senate. There, he was told his forms were incomplete.
Clayton Harris, Blagojevich's acting chief of staff, was in Washington Tuesday to present two documents to the Senate -- Blagojevich's letter to Burris informing him of his intent to appoint him and a fax document from White's legal counsel stating that he had registered the appointment of Burris but not signed it.
Harris told FOXNews.com that White does not have the authority to overrule the governor, and the Senate must accept the certification.
"Our contention is that with the governor's signature on it, with his intent, then it becomes a valid document," Harris said, noting that the famous case of Marbury v. Madison entitles the governor to execute appointments.
"The governor has constitutionally and legally appointed Roland Burris as the senator to fill the vacant Senate spot. ... According to Illinois constitution and law, the governor is allowed to make this appointment," he said.
Harris added that Burris is in no way tied to any of the accusations against the governor and shouldn't be held accountable.
"I don't think anyone is saying that Roland Burris was engaged or embattled with anything that the governor is being accused of. I don't think anyone has said anything about the credentials of Roland Burris and certainly no one has impugned the integrity of Roland Burris," he said. "The problems that are pending right now notwithstanding, the state of Illinois still has to operate."
Burris told reporters on Monday that he was considering a walk over to the courthouse to file papers asking the court to admit him if he is denied the seat. But he wasn't going to be disorderly in the Senate.
Burris is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Reid and Illinois Sen. Dick 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.
FOXNews.com's Stephen Clark, FOX News' Trish Turner and Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.