WASHINGTON – If it were up to Roland Burris, he’d be here to stay.
A week of lonely walks, calls for his resignation and cameras following his every move didn’t seem to affect the new senator from Illinois. The opposite, actually: Burris spent most of his time digging in.
“He’s kept a busy schedule since arriving in Washington, and he’s made a point of really going about the business of the Senate,” said Burris’ spokesman, Jim O’Connor.
Burris, a Democrat, was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and driven from office after being accused of trying to sell the Senate seat. Burris is under scrutiny because of new allegations about the circumstances of his appointment and for changing his story about it multiple times.
His week began with a phalanx of television cameras at his office door. Then came calls for his resignation and a more pronounced distance from those who once backed him.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., an early supporter, made a point of staying out of the fray. When asked Thursday if Burris should resign, Cummings said, “I think he needs to make a decision for himself.”
Burris barely let on that things had changed for him, though, even after his Illinois colleague and the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Sen. Richard Durbin, told him he should resign.
He slogged through committee meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and voted on the Senate floor. He attended Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress, but he walked alone from the Senate chamber to the House when no one seemed interested in chatting him up.
Late Wednesday afternoon, he gave his second floor speech — in support of voting rights for Washington, D.C. — and then presided over the Senate, taking part in a ritual for freshman senators. On Thursday, it was more committee meetings and floor votes, then a night flight back to Chicago.
Burris was a no-show at a black caucus meeting with Obama on Thursday, saying he needed to be in the Senate for a vote. His absence prevented a potentially awkward encounter with the president.
Even Rep. Bobby Rush, the Illinois Democrat who has championed Burris’ appointment, said it was a good thing Burris wasn’t there.
Democrats on the Hill said Burris’ fellow senators have been cordial to Burris, but hardly gone out of their way make him feel at home.
There was little solace on the Internet either. Two “Save Roland Burris” groups have popped up on the popular Facebook Web site. The groups have less than 70 members combined, and their ranks include a handful of GOP political operatives.