Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday called on fellow Democrat Roland Burris to resign from the U.S. Senate, saying the controversy surrounding Burris' appointment to the seat was hurting the state and his constituents.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Burris must explain the conflicting statements that have put his appointment in peril and should take time this weekend to "certainly think of what lays in his future."
Quinn praised Burris as an honorable man, but said a shadow hangs over him after revelations the senator attempted to raise money for disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who appointed him, and failed to disclose multiple conversations with Blagojevich advisers.
"To step aside and resign is, I think, a heroic act and I ask Roland to do that," Quinn said at a news conference.
In the event Burris does resign, Quinn said lawmakers should quickly pass legislation to fill any Senate vacancy by special election, rather than gubernatorial appointment.
"At no time should our state go without full and fair representation in the United States Senate," Quinn said. He declined to say who he might temporarily appoint if Burris resigns.
Burris has given no indication of heeding the many calls for his job, including from other Democratic lawmakers. He was on a listening tour of the state Friday and is refusing to speak publicly about the controversy. Spokesman Jim O'Connor said he would not respond specifically to Quinn's statements.
"Like he said before, he's asked the public and officials to stop the rush to judgment and to allow all of the facts to come out," O'Connor said Friday.
Burris, a former Illinois attorney general, testified before the Illinois House committee that recommended Blagojevich's impeachment in January that he hadn't had contact with key Blagojevich staffers or offered anything in return for the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
Last weekend, however, Burris released an affidavit saying he had spoken to several Blagojevich advisers, including Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother and finance chairman, who Burris said called three times last fall asking for fundraising help. Burris, a former state attorney general, changed his story again this week when he admitted trying, unsuccessfully, to raise money for Blagojevich.
Illinois lawmakers have asked local prosecutors to look into perjury charges, and a preliminary U.S. Senate Ethics Committee inquiry is under way. Burris denies lying under oath.