In the Illinois State Capital, the most pressing question Thursday was: Did Roland Burris pay to play?
Burris testified Thursday during a House committee hearing on the possible impeachment of Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The governor is accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder, and Burris is the man he chose to fill it.
Burris denied making any deals with the governor.
"I would not participate in anybody's quid pro quo," he told lawmakers. "I've been in government 20 years and never participated in anybody's quid pro quo."
NPR's David Schaper says Burris explained to lawmakers that he wanted the appointment as soon as he realized Obama would be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee, and that he mentioned his interest in the Senate seat last summer. But he says he had no contact with anyone close to Blagojevich about the seat until well after the governor's arrest on federal criminal charges.
"When it was all over, Burris declared that he thought he passed this test with flying colors and that he legally will be seated as Illinois' junior senator," Schaper tells host Michele Norris.
Burris also said Thursday that he couldn't answer lawmakers' questions about whether he would have notified authorities had Blagojevich suggested a pay-for-play scheme.
"He had attorneys with him on either side helping him try to deflect that question in particular," Schaper says. "But there are some folks who wonder if he would have gone to authorities had he been proposed with some sort of quid pro quo."
The same House committee also released a draft report Thursday recommending that Blagojevich be impeached. The full Illinois House is expected to vote Friday on the question of impeachment. Schaper says the report documents multiple ways in which the Illinois Legislature feels the governor abused his authority.
"This is not just in regard to the criminal charges that the governor has faced," Schaper says. "There's been a very contentious relationship between Gov. Blagojevich and Democrats ... in the Illinois House for quite some time. They feel like the governor has circumvented the Legislature in a number of matters and that he has abused his authority.
"It's not just the criminal charges against him," Schaper says. "That's just adding to the case, they feel, in why Gov. Blagojevich should be impeached."