Chicago(US), Dec.31 (ANI): Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has named former state Attorney General Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, stunning lawmakers both in his home state and in Washington.
Blagojevich told a press conference in Chicago that Burris was a candidate of "unquestioned integrity" and urged the public not to "allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man."
He said he was obligated by law to fill the vacant Senate seat and he did not want to deprive Illinois of having two senators on Capitol Hill, even as Senate Democrats vowed to block the appointment.
Blagojevich is facing federal corruption charges and impeachment proceedings after being accused of trying to sell Obama's seat.Despite the cloud of allegations surrounding him, Fox News quoted Blagojevich as saying that he was confident his selection of Burris would be upheld.
"The people of Illinois are entitled to have two United States senators representing them in Washington, D.C. As governor, I am required to make this appointment," Blagojevich said.
"This is about Roland Burris as the United States senator -- not about the governor who makes the appointment," he added.Burris said he has no involvement in the charges against the governor and asked voters to place the "same faith and trust in me as they have in the past."
Senate Democrats have been urging Blagojevich to step down since his arrest earlier this month, and released a statement just prior to the governor's announcement saying they would not seat any candidate he sends to Washington.
Obama, in a written statement, sided with the Senate leadership, saying the governor's decision was "disappointing" and that he should resign so a "lawful and appropriate process of succession" can take place.
"It is truly regrettable that despite requests from all 50 Democratic Senators and public officials throughout Illinois, 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," Senate Democrats said in their written statement Tuesday.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said he would not certify an appointment by Blagojevich, although it was unclear whether he had the power to "veto" such an appointment by refusing to certify.
Concerns are widespread that any appointment by Blagojevich will be tainted since the governor is facing charges for his alleged attempts to extract favors and contributions from potential candidates.
Several unidentified Senate candidates are referenced in transcripts of wiretapped conversations with Blagojevich; Burris has not been identified as one of them.
Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who is next in line to be governor, told reporters Tuesday that the Burris appointment was an "insult to the people of Illinois" and urged the public to "stand firm" against the governor's actions.
Burris is a prolific contributor to Democratic candidates, including Blagojevich. State campaign finance records show he and his wife have donated 4,500 dollars to Blagojevich's campaign fund since 2004. Burris has also contributed to Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.Burris served as state attorney general from 1991 to 1995. He earlier served as state comptroller, and made history as the first black elected to statewide office. (ANI)