WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate officials on Monday approved Roland Burris to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, which would give Democrats 58 of the Senate’s 100 seats, their biggest majority since 1981.
Barring unanticipated objections from Senate Republicans, Burris, appointed to the seat by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, could be sworn in within days.
The decision was a major about-face by the Democratic leadership, which initially vowed that the December appointment would not stand because Blagojevich had been arrested on charges of having earlier tried to sell the seat.
Obama had backed that decision. But he later agreed with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on the need to find “an amicable solution” to remove the matter as a possible distraction to a busy Democratic legislative agenda, a party aide said.
On Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the appointment of Burris was valid. But Democrats said they would not seat him until the appointment was certified by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
While White refused to certify the appointment, he signed a statement after the court ruling certifying that the governor’s appointment letter was legally filed with the state.
That appeared to satisfy the secretary of the Senate, who had last week rejected Burris’ credentials as incomplete.
“The secretary of the Senate has determined that the new credentials presented today on behalf of Mr. Burris now satisfy Senate Rules and validate his appointment,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin said in a joint statement.
With Obama set to be sworn in as the first black U.S. president on January 20, Burris would replace him as the only black senator.
There is still one U.S. Senate seat undecided in Minnesota.
Editing by David Wiessler
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