Obama rejects Senate replacement

US President-elect - Barack Obama
US President-elect - Barack Obama

Barack Obama says Democratic senators should reject the man proposed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to replace Mr Obama in the US Senate.

Mr Blagojevich is the subject of a criminal inquiry and has been charged with attempting to “sell” Mr Obama’s now-vacant seat to the highest bidder.

The governor defied pressure to pick Roland Burris, the state’s former attorney general, to fill the position.

Democratic senators have vowed to veto anyone appointed by Mr Blagojevich.

The president-elect said he agreed the Senate “cannot accept” a new senator chosen by Mr Blagojevich, adding that Mr Blagojevich himself should resign.

Mr Blagojevich denies wrongdoing and has rejected previous calls for his resignation.

‘Fine public servant’

Mr Burris, 71, became the first African-American to be elected to statewide office in Illinois when he won the 1978 election to be state comptroller.

He was state attorney general from 1991 to 1995 and made unsuccessful bids for the US Senate in 1984 and Illinois governor in 1994.

“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant,” said Mr Obama.

“But the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision.”

Appearing with Mr Burris to announce his choice, Mr Blagojevich said: “Please don’t allow the allegations against me to taint a good and honest man.”

But Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate was not impressed.

“It is truly regrettable that… Governor Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety,” said Mr Reid.

“Anyone appointed by Governor Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and … will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.”

‘Pay-to-play’ deals

An internal review conducted by the Obama team concluded last week that neither the president-elect, nor his staff, had had any “inappropriate discussions” with Mr Blagojevich about who should fill the seat.

Mr Blagojevich has vowed to “fight the false accusations” made by what he has termed a “political lynch mob”.

The Illinois state legislature has formed a committee to investigate the possibility of impeaching Mr Blagojevich.

There have been calls from many politicians, including Mr Obama, for the governor to step down.

Mr Blagojevich was charged on 9 December with a number of offences including soliciting a bribe.

The charges relate to a variety of corruption schemes in which the governor was allegedly involved, including so-called “pay to play” deals – the doling out of jobs, contracts and appointments in return for campaign contributions.

On the day of his arrest, investigators released transcripts of conversations between Mr Blagojevich and others intercepted by court-authorised wiretaps.

In the conversations, the Democratic governor allegedly discussed offering Mr Obama’s Senate seat in return for a well-paid position at a non-profit organisation or a group affiliated with trades unions, according to the affidavit.
Source: BBC

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