The embattled governor of the state of Illinois has named a replacement for President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. The surprise announcement came amid assertions by Senate Democrats that anyone chosen by the scandal-tainted governor would not be seated in Washington.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich tapped former state Attorney General Roland Burris to take the president-elect's Senate seat. Speaking at a news conference, Blagojevich said he was fulfilling his duty as governor and that the people of Illinois deserve to have full representation in the U.S. Senate.
"The people of Illinois are entitled to have two United States Senators represent them in Washington DC," he said. "As governor, I am required to make this appointment. If I don't make this appointment, then the people of Illinois will be deprived of their appropriate voice and vote in the United States Senate."
Blagojevich was arrested earlier this month on federal corruption charges, accused of attempting to sell the senate seat in return for political favors. The governor has denied any wrongdoing.
Burris, an African-American, has served in positions in Illinois' state government and run unsuccessfully for governor - including once against Blagojevich.
What happens next is unclear. Illinois' secretary of state has said he will not certify the appointment, and leaders in the U.S. Senate have said they will not seat anyone named by Blagojevich. A statement by Senate Democrats called it "truly regrettable" that the governor would appoint someone who "would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety".
With Mr. Obama's departure from the chamber, the Senate currently has no African-American members.
State governors are tasked with appointing replacements for senators and members of Congress who resign, are removed from office or die.