Roland Burris should borrow a page from Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, President Obama’s short-lived pick to become Commerce Secretary, and agree to resign his Senate seat immediately on the condition that he be replaced by another African-American.
The embattled Illinois senator has been in office shortly more than a month, but is facing increasing calls for his resignation in the wake of disclosures that he has been less than forthcoming about his attempts to raise campaign contributions for impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for being appointed to the U.S. Senate.
Burris was selected to fill the remaining term of President Barack Obama, which is set to expire in two years. The Senate Ethics Committee has been asked to investigate Burris and perjury charges have been referred to Illinois prosecutors for possible action.
It’s time to pull the plug on this soap opera and the quickest way to turn the lights out is by getting Burris to do something many have already accused him of doing – cut a deal.
I know there are some who will say that Burris should resign with no strings attached. I agree in principle, but doubt that he’ll leave voluntarily without some preconditions. Hence, my proposal that he leave, be replaced by another African-American, and in 2010, let the voters of Illinois decide who should succeed the man who succeeded Barack Obama.
Invariably, conservatives will call my proposal to end the standoff racist because it seeks to keep at least one African-American seated in the otherwise all-White Senate. In the larger scheme of things, this is no different than Senator Gregg agreeing to give up his Senate seat with the stipulation that a Republican replace him to avoid giving Democrats a critical 60-vote edge. Of course, the circumstances are different but in the end, it’s about the same thing — retaining political power.
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, agreed to play the game, naming Bonnie Newman, Gregg’s former chief of staff, to replace him. But Gregg had second thoughts and decided to stay in the Senate.
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