Democratic Party leaders in Illinois and in Washington now seem resigned to the idea that Sen. Roland Burris won't resign.
"He told me last week he's not going to resign," says Dick Durbin, Illinois' senior senator and one of several top Democrats who had urged Burris to step down. "I've got a lot of work to do. I'm going to work with him, do everything I can for this state."
Burris had been under pressure to resign since changing his story a few weeks ago about the circumstances surrounding his controversial appointment to the Senate by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was later impeached and ousted from office. Burris remains under investigation for possible perjury and ethics violations related to his appointment, but he seems to have weathered the storm for now.
Pressure From Chicago Leaders
Nearly every day over the past week or so, groups of African-American ministers, community leaders, lawyers or politicians have held news conferences and rallies in Chicago to pronounce their support for Burris and to ask that calls for his resignation stop.
"We have wasted precious time, precious time, arguing over whether Burris should go or stay," pastor Anthony Williams said at a recent news conference.
"People are hurting out here. So we've gone beyond Roland Burris," Williams said. "Right now, the most important thing ... is to make sure that the stimulus package is properly dispersed in our community."
The ministers say they are not condemning or condoning what Burris may have done, but they say it is time to move on. And the Chicago City Council's Black Caucus is even stronger in its defense of Burris.
"We want to say collectively together, we want this cutting and bleeding to stop," says Alderman Carrie Austin, who chairs the Black Caucus. "To just muck up somebody's 30-plus-years record, loyalty to the Democratic Party, and now for all of them to turn on him — we say it's time for this to stop, and if it does not, we shall remember this at the next election."
Governor Backs Off
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who had called for Burris to resign but who may want to run for a full term as governor next year, appears to have received the message.
"He made it pretty clear that he's not going to resign," Quinn says. "You can't have a special election unless he resigns, and so I don't think we can dwell on that issue."
Quinn denies that his own future political fortunes were a factor in his decision to back off of Burris. But Chicago Tribune political columnist Clarence Page says racial interests appear to be outweighing ethical concerns.
"I had hoped that maybe we had seen an elevation of ethical standards now to a point where politicians would not rally to Roland Burris' side solely because they want to have somebody filling a black seat in the Senate," Page says. "Unfortunately, we have not progressed that far yet."
Tired Of Controversy
At Alice's Soul Food restaurant on Chicago's West Side, customers seem tired of the ongoing Burris saga.
"Focus on something else," says Darryl Smith, who was recently laid off from his job at DHL.
Smith says Burris may have been deceptive, but that's politics. He wants Burris and his critics to fix the economy.
"We need help," Smith says. "People need jobs, people need monies. They can't afford to live, basically, day by day."
He and others add, however, that they now expect Burris to deliver.