Illinois Governor
Paul Beaty  /  AP
Rep. Bobby Rush speaks after Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich announces his choice of former Ill. Attorney General Roland Burris, right, to fill President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat Tuesday in Chicago.
updated 12/30/2008 4:50:46 PM ET 2008-12-30T21:50:46

Senate Democrats on Tuesday vowed not to seat embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick to fill the vacancy left by President-elect Barack Obama, prompting a House Democrat to object to the nation's only prospective black senator being denied a seat.

Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois told reporters that Senate Democrats should not "hang and lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer."

Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, who is black, to the post on Tuesday. Although Burris, 71, is not involved in the governor's legal problems — Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell the appointment — Senate Democrats said neither Burris nor any other Blagojevich choice would be seated.

"This is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat," Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a joint statement.

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"Anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic caucus," they said.

Long before Burris' selection became public, the 50-member Democratic caucus in the Senate called on Blagojevich to leave the appointment to others, saying that the charges against him would strip credibility from anyone he appointed.

Rush's stark denouncement of the plan to deny Burris his seat stunned Senate staffers and their bosses and ignited a major internal fight among Democrats just as the party was preparing to celebrate Obama's election as the nation's first black commander in chief.

"There are no African-Americans in the Senate," Rush said. "And I don't think that anyone — any U.S. senator who's sitting in the Senate right now — wants to go on record to deny one African-American for being seated in the U.S. Senate."

Rush said he would appeal to the Congressional Black Caucus to support Burris' appointment, and he singled out Durbin as someone he expected could be "reasoned with." Durbin had no further comment, a spokesman said.

The last time the Senate refused to seat a member was in 1947, when Mississippi Democrat Theodore Bilbo was accused of corruption and bribery, according to Don Ritchie, associate Senate historian.

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