WASHINGTON — Roland Burris announced Tuesday he was rejected for Barack Obama's Senate seat, in a bizarre rainy-day scene on the Capitol grounds as lawmakers awaited the gaveling of the 111th Congress into session.
Standing amid a huge throng of reporters and television cameras in a cold and steady rain, Burris, 71, declared that he had been informed that "my credentials are not in order and will not be accepted."
The former Illinois attorney general said he was "not seeking to have any type of confrontation" over taking the seat that he was appointed to by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But Burris also said he was looking at options for taking the seat.
It was a spectacular demonstration of political gridlock at a time when the Democratic-controlled Congress has been eagerly awaiting Obama's inauguration while nervously anticipating tense work on a much-discussed stimulus program to steady the faltering economy.
An attorney for Burris, Timothy W. Wright III, said that "our credentials were rejected by the secretary of the Senate. We were not allowed to be placed in the record books. We were not allowed to proceed to the floor for purposes of taking oath. All of which we think was improperly done and is against the law of this land. We will consider our options and we will certainly let you know what our decisions will be soon thereafter."
Asked what his options were, Wright said there possibly could be a court challenge and he said that Burris also would continue to talk to the Senate leadership.
There had been earlier indications that the Senate would disallow Burris to take his seat, at least in part because his letter of appointment from Blagojevich was not co-signed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
Some of Burris' supporters have bemoaned the fact that Democrats would stand in the way of the Senate gaining its only black member. Burris himself downplayed the issue of race, telling reporters: "I cannot control my supporters. I have never in my life, in all my years of being elected to office, thought anything about race."
Earlier Tuesday, Burris had tense negotiations with Terrence Gainer, the Senate's sergeant at arms.
"I'm presenting myself as the legally appointed senator from the state of Illinois. It is my hope and prayer that they recognize that the appointment is legal," he said earlier in a nationally broadcast interview.
Burris dismissed the Senate Democratic leadership's position that he cannot be seated because he was appointed by a governor accused in a criminal complaint of trying to benefit financially from his authority to fill the seat that Obama vacated after winning the presidential election.
Burriss said his belief is that his appointment is constitutional and that "I have no knowledge of where a secretary of state has veto power over a governor carrying out his constitutional duties."
Burris also maintained that the announcement by Blagojevich Monday of a date for an election for a successor to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., proves the governor still has legal authority to carry out his duties. Emanuel will be Obama's White House chief of staff.
"There's nothing wrong with Roland Burris and there's nothing wrong with the appointment," Burris said.
Burris has found little support among fellow Democrats.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had said Monday that Burris would not be permitted to take his seat because Burris "has not been certified by the state of Illinois," a reference to incomplete paperwork that only touches on the dispute. Senate Democrats maintain that Burris' appointment is tainted because of the charges against Blagojevich.
While Blagojevich has signed formal appointment papers, White has not, and Senate rules require that signature. Burris, in turn, has gone to court hoping to win an order for White to sign the necessary paperwork, and he has also threatened to sue to take his seat in the Senate.