Senate Rejections Are Rare

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Theodore G. Bilbo, a virulent white supremacist accused of intimidating black voters and corrupt campaign practices, was the last man denied a seat in the U.S. Senate, after the voters of Mississippi elected him to a third term in 1946.

According to the Senate historian’s office, Bilbo is one of just four appointed or clearly elected would-be senators who were not seated by the Senate since the April 8, 1913, ratification of the 17th amendment guaranteed the direct election of senators and provided for appointments to vacancies. (Others have had to wait for full recognition while contested elections were settled.)

The prospect of a fifth person joining that ignominious club loomed Tuesday when embattled Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich named Roland W. Burris to succeed President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate, setting the stage for a high-stakes battle with his party’s leaders in Washington.

Senate Democrats led by Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada say they will refuse to seat Burris, a former state comptroller and attorney general, because Blagojevich faces federal corruption charges that include allegiations he tried to auction off the Senate seat. Burris’ name did not figure in any of those allegations.

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