Outgoing U.S. Sen. Roland Burris (D.-Ill.) said he is furious with the lack of African-Americans in the Senate, calling the fact that there will be no Black senators once he completes his term when the 111th Congress adjourns, “unacceptable” and “troubling.”
Republican Mark Kirk will replace Burris, who chose not to seek election. Burris is finishing out President Obama’s original term, a position he received under a cloud of controversy.
However, Burris did not mention the controversy in his speech, but instead spoke to the dearth of Black colleagues in the Senate.
“When the one hundred and twelfth Congress is sworn in this coming January, there will not be a single Black American who takes the oath of office in this chamber,” Burris said during his sparsely attended farewell speech. “This is simply unacceptable. We can–and we will–and we must do better.”
Only three African-Americans ran for seats in the Senate this year; Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), Alvin Greene (D-S.C.) and Mike Thurmond (D-Ga.). All three were defeated—a troubling sign, Burris said.
“In this regard, and in any other, our political progress has proven less accessible – and less representative – than it ought to be, and although I have never allowed my race to define me, in a sense, it has meant that my constituency as a United States Senator has stretched far beyond the boundaries of Illinois,” he said.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich cast Burris into the controversy surrounding his appointment to the Senate. Blagojevich was accused of putting a price on the Senate appointment.
Though Burris had to deal with the controversy and an American public that turned on his party, he was still able to maintain his sense of humor.
“Don¹t be surprised if I don’t come back, because I’m from Chicago, and I’ll vote twice,” he joked.