NPR logo A Drama Ends: Burris Sworn Into Senate


A Drama Ends: Burris Sworn Into Senate

A coda to the saga of Roland Burris, the man who stepped into the limelight as the Senate appointee of beleaguered Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich:

After the high drama of being turned away from the Senate doors last week, Burris was sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday.

After the ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the floor to explain the about-face by Democrats who initially refused to recognize Burris. Reid and others had argued that any pick by Blagojevich would be tainted by the federal corruption charges the governor is facing for allegedly trying to sell off that very seat.

But on Thursday, Reid struck a different tone.

"There are many paths to the United States Senate. It's fair to say that the path that brought our new colleague from Illinois to us was unique, and that's an understatement," said Reid.

"Whatever complications surrounded his appointment, we made it clear from the beginning — both publicly and privately — that our concern was never with Mr. Burris."

What contributed to the about-face?

The Congressional Black Caucus rallied around the 71-year-old African-American, with Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) leading the charge.

"The Senate is much more diverse today than it was yesterday," said a smiling Rush to reporters afterward.

At the same time, Senate Rules Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) found that even with the allegations against the governor, the Burris appointment was legal. That, plus the threat of legal action by Burris, greased the wheels for Thursday's swearing-in.

"I tell you, it's a dream of a lifetime to be able to obtain a seat in that august body. And I want to thank each and every one of you all who had a lot to do with that," said Burris.

Meanwhile, one of the candidates once considered a possible successor to Obama shrugged off the lost opportunity.

"I watched him achieve one of his dreams," said Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. "And at 43 years old, maybe one of these days I will be able to achieve mine."

Sen. Roland Burris cast his first vote within hours of the swearing-in — on the resolution to block the $350 billion in bailout money for financial institutions.