Burris Keeps Low Profile Before Returning to D.C.

Embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris returns to Washington Tuesday, where he'll face his colleagues for the first time since disclosing he tried to raise money for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich while seeking the Senate appointment.

Burris spokesman Jim O'Connor said he did not yet know with whom the senator might meet on Tuesday, but Burris planned to attend the joint session of Congress.

Fellow Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin wants to schedule a meeting with Burris "as soon as possible," spokesman Joe Shoemaker said. Durbin has not called for Burris to resign, saying he wants to talk to him in person before commenting further.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Harry Reid did not immediately return a phone message Monday.

Burris has resisted calls for his resignation, including from within his own party, over accusations that he lied about circumstances surrounding his appointment. Blagojevich faces charges of trying to sell President Barack Obama's former Senate seat, though he denies wrongdoing.

Burris testified in January before the Illinois House committee that recommended Blagojevich's impeachment that he hadn't had contact with key Blagojevich staffers or offered anything in return for the seat.

But just over a week ago, Burris released an affidavit saying he had spoken to several Blagojevich advisers, including Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and finance chairman, who Burris said called three times last fall asking for fundraising help.

He changed his story again last week when he admitted trying, unsuccessfully, to raise money for Blagojevich.

Now Burris, the nation's only black senator, finds himself caught up in a political firestorm.

Illinois lawmakers have asked local prosecutors to look into perjury charges, and a preliminary U.S. Senate Ethics Committee inquiry is under way. Even the White House said last week that Burris should take the weekend to consider his future.

But it appears he still has some support. Pastors from Clergy Speaks Interdenominational, an umbrella group that includes hundreds of Chicago's black churches, met Saturday with Burris at his home, according to the group's chairman, the Rev. Albert Tyson III.

Tyson would not speak specifically about the meeting until the group holds a news conference on Wednesday except to say, "Yes, he is supported."

Another minister told The Associated Press last week that some clergy wanted Burris to resign.

If Burris decides to stay, he could find it difficult to recruit a staff and likely will be isolated politically, said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield.

"The national Democrats needed his vote, but they found that he hung them out to dry," said Redfield, adding he doubts the ethics panel will do anything to Burris. "The Democrats are not going to go out of their way to make him front and center in terms carrying legislation.

"They're going to avoid anything that might draw attention to him."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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