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Obama to Resign Senate Seat on Sunday

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(CHICAGO) — President-elect Barack Obama said Thursday that he will resign from the Senate effective Sunday.

In a statement, the junior Illinois senator called his four-year term "one of the highest honors and privileges" of his life and said the people of Illinois will stay with him as he leaves the Senate to begin "the hard task of fulfilling the simple hopes and common dreams of all Americans as our nation's next president."

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Obama won the presidency last week over Republican John McCain.

Under state law, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich will name Obama's replacement for the remaining two years of his term. Blagojevich has said he expects to make a decision by year's end, and has ruled out appointing himself. Obama, elected in 2004, is the only black senator.

His resignation reduces the Democratic majority to a bare minimum for the post-election session that begins next week. The party retains control as long as Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut sides with them.

Some Democrats favor punishing Lieberman, who endorsed McCain, for his speech at the Republican National Convention this summer and other critical remarks about Obama. Obama has told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid he is not interested in seeing Democrats drive Lieberman from the Democratic caucus.

Blagojevich's appointee would serve until the next national election in 2010.

Potential candidates to replace Obama include Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

On Tuesday, Obama appeared with another potential replacement, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, to commemorate Veterans Day. She is a former congressional candidate and head of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs.

A day later, Obama friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett made it known that she's not interested in the Senate seat.

Blagojevich has said he wants to name Obama's replacement by Christmas. Potential successors said Thursday they had heard nothing from the governor to indicate that he has changed plans or intends to make a decision soon.

Duckworth said the governor's office hadn't contacted her to discuss the position or a timetable. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis said the same, although he predicted Blagojevich wouldn't let the decision wait until Christmas.

"My sense is that the governor will probably not drag this out too long," said Davis, D-Ill.

Obama's aides say his Senate office will remain open for a while so that staffers can archive Senate documents for Obama's future presidential library and contact constituents. It will close some time within the 60 days after the resignation becomes effective Sunday.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden also is expected to resign his seat representing Delaware at some point between now and the Jan. 20 inauguration. Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner presumably would pick the successor.

Biden's eldest son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, has been mentioned as a possible successor, but that may not happen now that he is being deployed to Iraq with his National Guard unit. Some Delaware Democrats have pushed for Minner to appoint Lt. Gov. John Carney, who lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to state treasurer Jack Markell.

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