Roland Burris, named by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill out President-elect Barack Obama's term in the U.S. Senate, says that his appointment is legal and that its legality is the only thing critics should look at.
Blagojevich's future is uncertain amid allegations he tried to sell the vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. Senate Democrats have said they won't seat Burris, who was named to the vacancy Tuesday.
"The governor is still the governor of the state of Illinois," Burris tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "He has constitutional duties and responsibilities."
He adds: "I am now the senator from the state of Illinois. You may choose to call me whatever you like, but I'm the senator — legally appointed by the governor."
Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Dick Durbin of Illinois, say they won't seat Burris because of the controversy surrounding Blagojevich. But Burris says they need to separate the governor's problems with Blagojevich's duties and responsibilities.
"Would you venture to say that the governor's actions are illegal? Is that what they are saying?" he asks. "Then if the actions are legal, we are right in our position, and the governor has the legal authority to make the appointment."
Burris says he will stay in touch with Durbin before he comes to Washington next week to take his seat in the Senate and hopes to have matters resolved by then.
"I will be seated," he says.