MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In the Illinois state Capitol today, the most pressing question was did Roland Burris pay to play? Lawmakers are holding a hearing on the possible impeachment of Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, and Roland Burris testified today, since he's the man Blagojevich chose to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat. Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder. Today, Burris once again denied making any deals with the governor.
Mr. ROLAND BURRIS (Democrat, Illinois Senator-Designate): I would not participate in anybody's quid pro quo. I've been in government for 20 years and never participated in anybody's quid pro quo.
Unidentified Man: All right. I guess the point is would you have gone to the federal authorities if you were aware of that?
Mr. BURRIS: I have no response to that.
Unidentified Man: OK.
NORRIS: U.S. Senate Democrats say they want to hear what Burris has to say today before they decide whether to let him into the Senate. NPR's David Schaper is covering the hearing in Springfield, Illinois. David, what happened?
DAVID SCHAPER: Well, Burris was on the hot seat, so to speak, answering questions about how he became the person appointed to the Senate seat that had been held by Barack Obama by Governor Blagojevich. And he explained that even though he wanted the appointment as soon as he realized Mr. Obama would be the Democratic Party nominee and that he mentioned his interest in the Senate seat last summer, Burris says that he didn't have any contact with anyone close to the governor about the Senate seat until well after the governor's arrest, a couple of weeks after really.
Now, in this next exchange we're going to play for you between Chicago State Representative Mary Flowers and Roland Burris, Burris again emphatically denied that he was asked for anything or that he engaged in any pay-to-play with the governor for the Senate seat.
(Soundbite of hearing)
Mr. BURRIS: I can before this committee state that there was nothing legal - what were the three points?
Assemblywoman MARY FLOWERS (Democrat, Illinois): The three points were legal...
Mr. BURRIS: Legal.
Assemblywoman FLOWERS: Personal.
Mr. BURRIS: Personal.
Assemblywoman FLOWERS: Or political.
Mr. BURRIS: Or political exchange for my appointment to this seat.
Assemblywoman FLOWERS: There was no conversation, none to that effect, no quid pro quo, none of that.
Mr. BURRIS: Absolutely, positively not.
SCHAPER: 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.
NORRIS: David, when asked, though, if he knew about any pay-to-play schemes, whether he would have gone to federal authorities, he said he had no response to that. What should we read into that?
SCHAPER: Well, he says that that's hypothetical because it didn't happen. And legally, he couldn't say because he wouldn't - he couldn't say how it was framed to him. And he had attorneys with him on either side helping him try to deflect that question in particular. But there are some folks who wonder if he would have gone to the authorities had he been proposed with some sort of quid pro quo.
NORRIS: The same House committee also released a draft report today on that question of whether Blagojevich should be impeached. What does that report say?
SCHAPER: Well, the report recommends that the governor should be impeached and the Illinois - full Illinois House is expected to vote tomorrow on the question of whether or not the governor should be impeached. And that is expected to be a yes. The report documents all kinds of ways that the Illinois Legislature, the Illinois House in particular, feels that the governor has abused his authority, his power of office.
And this is not just in regards to the criminal charges that the governor has faced. There has been a very contentious relationship between Governor Blagojevich and Democratic - the Democrats, the same party, 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's abused his authority. And so it's not just the criminal charges against him. That's just adding to the case, they feel, on why Governor Blagojevich should be impeached.
NORRIS: Thank you, David.
SCHAPER: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: That's NPR's David Schaper speaking to us from the Illinois state Capitol in Springfield.
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