- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sen. Roland W. Burris told top Senate Democrats on Tuesday that he will not resign, despite a growing chorus of calls for him to quit as he faces an ethics committee probe.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, a fellow Illinois Democrat, said he pressed Mr. Burris to step down, but the embattled lawmaker refused.

“What I said was, ‘You know, if I were in your shoes, I would consider resigning,’ ” Mr. Durbin said after an hourlong meeting with Mr. Burris. “He said, ‘I’m not going to resign.’ ”

Mr. Durbin concluded, “I can’t force him out.”

He also said he advised Mr. Burris not to seek election in 2010, but Mr. Burris would not rule out a run.

“I told him I thought it would be extremely difficult for him to be successful in a primary or general election under the circumstances,” Mr. Durbin told reporters at the Capitol.

“He still has to deal directly with the Senate ethics committee, which is considering this matter, as well as the Sangamon County, Illinois, state’s attorney, John Schmidt, who’s been given evidence to consider whether a prosecution should be followed there for a variety of different charges,” he said. “That’s the situation as I know it, and it’s now up to Senator Burris to deal with the facts and challenges before him.”

Mr. Burris, adhering to the advice of his lawyers, did not comment on the meeting with Mr. Durbin.

Mr. Burris has been at the center of a political maelstrom since his appointment by scandal-tainted former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich to the Senate seat vacated by President Obama.

After overcoming opposition to his appointment by Senate Democratic leaders, including Mr. Durbin and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Mr. Burris ignited another political firestorm last week when he admitted he tried to raise money for Mr. Blagojevich prior to his appointment.

Mr. Blagojevich was removed from office by the Illinois Legislature after his arrest by federal investigators for purportedly attempting to sell the Senate appointment for campaign cash or high-paying jobs for himself and his wife.

Prior to being seated in the Senate, Mr. Burris testified at the Illinois House impeachment trial of Mr. Blagojevich and did not disclose all of his contacts with the governor, nor his fundraising activities.

The revelation of those activities, coupled with changing his story several times, spurred resignation calls from Illinois state lawmakers, as well as from fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Burris faces a possible perjury investigation in Illinois and a probe by the Senate ethics panel.

“It raises, sadly, the specter of political controversy in my home state,” Mr. Durbin said. “I’m telling you, our people of Illinois are bone-weary of this stuff. They want this Blagojevich burlesque to end, and they want to move on. …

“As far as my colleagues here in the Senate, they’re grasping, as I am, to try to get to the truth of this situation,” he said.

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