Exclusive: Sen. Roland Burris Reacts to Blagojevich Impeachment

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," January 27, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Exclusive reaction now from the guy appointed by [Gov. Blagojevich], Illinois Senator Roland Burris.

Senator, very good to have you. Thanks for coming.

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS, D-ILL.: It's my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

CAVUTO: What do you make of the release of the tapes, some of the tapes and what, if anything, you have heard from them?

BURRIS: I have heard nothing from the tapes. I have no knowledge about what is going on. I am here in Washington, taking care of the Senate business.

And I, unfortunately, cannot comment on anything that is happening in Springfield.

Video: Watch Cavuto's exclusive interview

CAVUTO: What do you make of the guy who appointed you, Senator, making the media rounds? He is — he is everywhere.

BURRIS: Well, that is certainly his choice.

And you have got to remember, there are two courts of opinion here. You have got public opinion and you have the legal court process. And, at this point, being a former appellate prosecutor, the governor has not been — he's innocent until he's proven guilty. And he has not been convicted of any type of a crime.

CAVUTO: Do you think, as the governor thinks, Senator, that he is getting a raw deal, that it's essentially a kangaroo court that he's facing in these ongoing Senate impeachment hearings, and he can't — he can't win, no matter what?

BURRIS: Well, certainly, Neil, I am not at liberty to determine what the governor is thinking. I mean, you would certainly have to ask that question of the governor.

CAVUTO: Well, that is what he said. That is what he said. He said that he is — he is not getting a fair break. They're not allowing him to question witnesses, that he — that it is not fair, period.

BURRIS: Well, then, that is his answer, in my opinion, wouldn't you say? He stated what he is thinking. And, so, my comment on it would not matter one way or the other.

CAVUTO: But are you comfortable with the process yourself, Senator, that it is fair to a governor?

BURRIS: Well, there is certainly a process going on. He was impeached by the House. That process was done according to the Constitution, and it now goes over to the Senate for the trial.

And, so, that process has been established. And that process will go to its conclusion and will come to a final disposition. And the disposition will be a decision based on whether or not the governor leaves office or stays or is convicted. And so that is the process that is under way.

CAVUTO: Sir, let me ask you, obviously, the governor has been talking a lot lately. And I know you don't really relish talking about what the governor thinks these days, or even says.

But one of the things he said raised some eyebrows, that he was seriously considering, maybe as his first choice for the Senate seat that you now hold, Oprah Winfrey. What did you make of that?


BURRIS: Well, that...


BURRIS: Certainly, he had the authority to appoint anyone he wanted to appoint, Neil. And that would have been his decision. And, evidently, he chose not to do that and he ended up appointing me.

CAVUTO: He had a variety of reasons for thinking of Oprah Winfrey. This is what he told our Geraldo Rivera yesterday, if we could play that.


GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, D-ILL.: Oprah was one of the many people we thought about, thinking outside the box, and trying to come up with something that was different.

And, with her, an African-American woman who had been more instrumental in electing Obama president than anybody, and her influence and her bully pulpit probably matching 100 senators combined, I think she would have been a great voice for the Obama agenda, as well as for the American people. But...


CAVUTO: Any comment on that?



BURRIS: I don't — I don't think Oprah would — and I know Oprah pretty well. Oprah could care less about politics and a Senate seat. I mean, Oprah stepped out of her box, naturally, when she supported for President Obama. That is — that was very unusual for her, because she has steered clear of politics.

And, of course, I think the governor was certainly looking for someone who is an icon in our community. And should he have appointed her, she probably would have declined it. But she is certainly, you know, a great person to even consider.

CAVUTO: Speaking of President Obama, Senator, you said a couple of days ago — I hope I have got this right — if there was no Martin Luther King Jr. and no Roland Burris, there would no Barack Obama in the White House today.

What did you mean by that?


And you talk about taking something out of context. I was speaking at the PUSH breakfast yesterday morning. And I was telling you about how we are progressing in this country, how Martin Luther King paved the way for Roland Burris in 1978, when he was elected statewide.

If there had been no Martin Luther King, there probably would not be a Roland Burris, how Roland Burris was elected in 1978, the first black elected statewide in Illinois, which paved the way for Carol Moseley Braun to be elected a United States senator, which paved the way for Jesse White to be elected secretary of state.

And, naturally, then comes Barack Obama, who then became a United States senator from the state of Illinois.

And by the way, Neil, Illinois has sent the last three African-American senators to the United States Senate. And that is certainly historic in our great state.

So, my comment — my comment was taken totally out of context. It had something to do with building bridges, how we stand on each other's shoulders to get accomplishments. And it was really trying to reach those young kids who were at that breakfast to say that you, too, can exceed; you, too, can excel. You, too, must recognize that you have to take advantage of a situation and circumstances, so that we can move forward in this country as African-Americans.

There was nothing untoward about that, in terms of ego or anything else. I think that the — the newspapers looked forward to something that would be taken out of context. And they sought to embellish on that, which is totally not — not what was intended by my remarks.

CAVUTO: Well, I can see your point, Senator. And that makes a great deal of sense.



CAVUTO: Someone had to blaze the trail, a path. And you were certainly among those.

Could I get a sense from you, Senator, where you see the relations in Washington going? As you know, the president was up on Capitol Hill meeting with Republican leaders in the House and Senate. He definitely wants to reach out. Republican leaders we have talked to say, well, he might want to reach out. He's not accepting our ideas, so all of this is essentially for show.

What do you say?

BURRIS: Oh, God, this definitely is not for show.

The president is serious. He is talking about bipartisanship here. He's talking about bringing this country together. We have a crisis on our hands that has never been experienced before. And — and what we must do is all work together and try to, you know, solve this crisis.

As a matter of fact, what we are hearing up on the Hill, it is going to get worse before it gets better. And, so, therefore...


CAVUTO: But do you think throwing a lot of money — I think what they were saying, Senator, is that the Republicans, that is — throwing a lot of money at a problem — and they speak from experience — they lost their majorities because they spent too much money unwisely — is not going to solve the problem.

In other words, no recession or slowdown has ever been repaired spending a lot of money on it. Wars do that, sadly. Maybe big tax cuts do that, but just spending a lot of money does not do that.

What do you say to that?

BURRIS: Well, I say that what — what does solve the problem is creating jobs. And if we put money into those infrastructures, into our roads and highways and water, or we put people back to work, we will certainly be able to create jobs.

We need shovels that are ready to go in the ground.


BURRIS: We need individuals going back to work in order — And that is certainly what we did when I was — before I was born, the thing called the WPA under the Roosevelt days, in terms of how we really got money back in the hands of the people, so that they can spend the money — earn it, spend it — and that would create more jobs. That's what we have to...


CAVUTO: I'm sorry, sir, but I was thinking of that in terms of the 5,000 laid-off workers at Microsoft, first time that company has ever had layoffs.


CAVUTO: And then a few thousand at Intel.

And I am thinking, how many of those laid-off workers will take a job paving roads or painting bridges?

BURRIS: Well, let's look at the — if the person who does that work - - and there a lot of people who are laid off in the construction or that type of industry — and they get a job, then they can buy a computer.

CAVUTO: Right.

BURRIS: And they can buy the retail products that will cause those other people to go to work. How did those individuals get those jobs at Microsoft and the other places? Because of the retail business. Is that correct?

CAVUTO: That is a very good point. That's a very fair point.


CAVUTO: Could I ask you this, though?


CAVUTO: There are a lot of academics who look at this, Senator. And I know you have baptism by fire here. You're in here in the middle of this financial crisis.


BURRIS: Thank you. You are right.

CAVUTO: But they're saying, look, we're kind of — we're kind of — we're kind of doubling down, Senator. In blackjack terms, we're likely taking a likely trillion-dollar deficit and we're going to make it a $2 trillion deficit on the hope that this sticks or does something to create enough revenue to pay it all back and then some.

Are you confident of that? You have been around the park a few times. I can't imagine...

BURRIS: Well, I'm an old banker. I'm an old banker.


CAVUTO: No, I did not mean that.


CAVUTO: But you know what I'm saying, that that is really...


BURRIS: I know what you are saying.


CAVUTO: That is really like a leap of faith, right?

BURRIS: Well, but guess what? Has anything — no one has come up with anything better at this point.

There's a lot of rhetoric going on. Let's see somebody show us a better plan of how we're going to get out of this. This is a crisis. And I'm listening and waiting to hear somebody who has got a better plan. I don't think they have, Neil.

So, based on that, we are going to go with what we go and we're going to doing the best we can to protect the people in America and the people of my great state of Illinois. We have got to do that. We have to do it.

CAVUTO: All right. But are you troubled — are you troubled, though, that — this happens in any large package, Senator, that you get money for a variety of programs that are vital to one congressman or senator, but pure pork to another, and now you the president on the horn with Henry Waxman, saying, get this stimulus — you know, this contraceptive thing out of the package; it does not belong in there, and for every Waxman, there is another one who is doing the same thing, and that, in the end, you have a package of pork, but little else?

BURRIS: Well, this is not classified as pork. This is classified as job creation.

CAVUTO: Well, how do you know, though? How do you know?


BURRIS: Well, because of how — how the dollars will be policed and spent.

I just heard from Senator Inouye in terms of how the structure of the overall auditing and financial checking of each one of those dollars that are going to go out on that package. So, there will be documentation, backup, audit reports, that this is going to go for meaningful projects, and it's not going to be going for pork or waste.


Finally, have you chatted...


CAVUTO: ... with Governor Blagojevich since you have become a senator?

BURRIS: No, I have not. I have no conversation with the governor.

CAVUTO: So, has he attempted to call your offices?

BURRIS: Not to my knowledge.

CAVUTO: So, it's not like he rings and everyone says, it's the governor, and we don't want to speak to him?


BURRIS: I'm sorry?

CAVUTO: So, it is not as if he tries to call, and your folks are saying, it's the governor; don't talk to him?

BURRIS: Well, no, we have not had that experience.



CAVUTO: If he loses his job — very quickly, if he loses his job and gets impeached, how would you feel?

BURRIS: Well, I would certainly feel sorry for his family. I mean, he has a couple of young kids. And we don't want to see any harm fall to anyone, especially one who has been our chief executive. He was elected twice.

So, I really reach out for his family and hope and pray that — you know, that he will be able to provide for them. But, generally, you have to say that, if you make that type of a bed, and you carry that behavior, and he is convicted of a crime, then he must pay the price that our society would then determine it's a penalty to pay for such a crime.

CAVUTO: Senator, thank you very, very much. Very good having you.

BURRIS: It is my pleasure. Thank you. I really enjoyed the interview.

CAVUTO: All right, Senator Roland Burris.

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