Rep. Rush Mobilizes Suport For Roland Burris

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[National News]

U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush said he has organized a national coalition to ensure Sen. Roland Burris takes the oath of office next week in the U.S. Senate and he also reissued his call to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) not to "stand in the door of the Senate" and block the only African-American member from the legislative body.

This move comes days after IL Governor Rod R. Blagojevich appointed Burris to fulfill the vacated senate seat of President-Elect Barack Obama. Reid and others have vowed to block the appointment because the governor has been accused of corruption, but has not been indicted or convicted in a court of law.

Members of the National Coalition for Fairness and Justice in the U.S. Senate include some of the most prominent business, civic, legal, legislative and religious representatives. The group has planned a prayer service on Sunday, January 4 at 6 p.m. at New Covenant Baptist Church, 740 E. 77th Street, and two days prior to Burris’ trip to Washington, D.C., where he plans to be sworn into the senate.

The group will challenge Americans who believe in fairness and justice to flood the phones of Reid (202-224-3542), Durbin (202-224-2152 or 312-353-4952) and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (312-793-2556 or 217-782-7017).

"I am sending a letter to our senior Senator Dick Durbin and to all of the members of the Illinois delegation appealing to them to support Roland Burris appointment as the next U.S. Senator. This is the moral thing to do, this is the legal thing to do and this is the right thing to do," said Cong. Rush.

"We will not allow Harry Reid or anyone else to stand in the door of seating Roland Burris as our next United States senator on Tuesday," said Eddie Read, chairman of the Black Independent Political Organization. "They cannot cherry pick which duties Blagojevich can perform as the duly elected governor of Illinois. Their actions are unconstitutional, illegal and immoral. Roland has been elected to statewide office four times by the people of Illinois. If he was good enough then, he is good enough now."

Added Rev. Stephen J. Thurston, president of the National Baptist Convention of America, one of the largest African-American religious organizations in the world, "We intend to stand with Sen. Burris as he moves to Washington to enact the duties of that office," he said.

Burris, who is African-American, is a highly experienced legislator having three times been elected as the state’s comptroller and once as its attorney general. A noted civil rights attorney, financial and economics expert and known as a bi-partisan coalition builder, he has an outstanding record of public service that has not been challenged even by those who oppose his appointment. He has never lost an election to a Republican.

If Burris is not seated there will be no African-American serving in the U.S. Senate. Only Hiram Revels, Blanche K. Bruce, Edward Brooke, and Carol Moseley Braun, have held the position before President-Elect Obama resigned to transition into the Executive Branch. Today, in addition to Asians, Latinos and Pacific-Islanders, there are 12 women who now serve in the U.S. Senate. Thirty-five women have served since the Senate’s founding in 1787, including Senator Braun, the first African-American woman ever elected to this prestigious office from Illinois.

"Gov. Blagojevich is within his right and is exercising his duties of office in appointing Burris to the senate," said State Senator Donne Trotter, majority whip in Illinois. "He must be seated on Tuesday."

"I have been in the struggle my whole life, whether for civil rights, against apartheid, to enable women, to lift up those who have been left behind, or for meaningful education," said Professor Alice Palmer, former IL State Senator. "Forty-percent of Black children are born into poverty and 70 percent of Black men between the age of 18 and 24 are jobless; it is clear to me that we need a Black voice in the U.S. Senate—not for emotional or symbolic reasons, but because there are still hard issues that Black voices in particular must speak to. I urge the U.S. Senate to seat Roland Burris."

The coalition noted the first historical attempt to block a qualified African-American from serving in the congress when in 1969 the then Speaker of the House John McCormack tried unsuccessfully to block Adam Clayton Powell from taking his seat as the congressman from Harlem, NY.

The group also noted the dual standard of criteria being used against Burris, in the wake of Sen. Joe Liberman’s open opposition to his own party.

"Attorney Roland Burris’ counsel has raised some substantial incredible legal claims that cannot be ignored. In the final analysis it seems certain that he will be confirmed as the senator designate to replace President-Elect Barack Obama," said noted Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree.

"The appointment of Sen. Burris has been made with the legal authority of the governor of Illinois," said Dr. Conrad Worrill, chairman of the National Black United Front. "It is clear that the senate of the United States government has primarily been a white club. Our push for Black representation in the U.S. Senate is steeped in the history of the exclusion of Black participation."

"President-Elect Obama ran on the message of change, transparency and inclusion and here you have 50 U.S. senators threatening to block the only African-American senator in Congress. This is appalling behavior that is all too familiar in American history. That day is over," said Rev. Al Sampson, president of the Chicago chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was created by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "We are rolling with Roland."

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