For Democrats determined to get a health care bill, Sen. Roland Burris is like the house guest who couldn't be refused, won't soon be leaving, and poses a plausible threat of ruining holiday dinner. Suddenly, he can no longer be ignored. Rod Blagojevich's appointee says he'll only vote for a health care bill if it includes a public option—and he won't compromise.
"I would not support a bill that does not have a public option," Burris, 72, tells the AP. "That position will not change." Nor will he vote for compromises, like Olympia Snowe's "triggered" plan, or Tom Carper's state-run version. Democrats will need Burris' vote to crack 60, but leadership isn't talking to him; they've done their best to ignore Burris since grudgingly seating him. Asked if he feels respected or listened to, Burris seems puzzled. "Yes. I'm a senator from Illinois representing 13 million people," he says. "I'm very busy."