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Even that issue is mired in legal confusion. The Illinois state charter says it is the “duty” of the secretary of state “to make a register of all appointments by the governor.” A contingency plan drawn up by the Senate leadership says the Senate doorkeeper should block Mr. Burris from entering the chamber during the swearing-in ceremony Tuesday. If he persists, the U.S. Capitol Police would be called.

Members of Congress hope the Illinois legislature will replace Mr. Blagojevich soon with a new governor, who will make an appointment to the Senate free of controversy. Afterward, they plan to develop new rules for handling similar situations in the future.

“The entire issue will be referred to the Rules Committee for further review,” Mr. Manley said.

Meanwhile, with so many legal issues unresolved, no one can be certain whether Mr. Obama’s Senate seat will be filled through a pushing match or an orderly succession.

• Above the Law runs on Mondays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail