Calls to Impeach Illinois Governor Grow

December 12, 2008 at 9:50 am Leave a comment

Illinois GovernorThe movement to impeach Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is picking up steam almost by the hour, with voters and lawmakers alike demanding his ouster as the scandal-plagued politician boldly hangs on to power.

The lieutenant governor joined a bevy of lawmakers Thursday in demanding that Blagojevich be impeached, saying he has become an embarrassment to the state and can no longer lead. His approval rating plummeted to a shockingly low 8 percent.

“When you have no confidence from the people, in a democracy there’s nowhere else to go but to resign,” Lt. Pat Quinn said.

The impeachment push was part of a riveting political drama that extended from Illinois to Washington and drew President-elect Barack Obama into the fold. He made his first public comments about the scandal on Thursday, calling charges that Blagojevich put Obama’s U.S. Senate seat up for sale appalling and saying neither he nor his aides had any involvement in the governor’s alleged scheming.

Blagojevich seems to be in no hurry to leave office. The besieged Democratic governor spent a third day ignoring demands that he quit, showing up to work and dealing with legislative business.

He left his home in the morning, kissed his wife and kids goodbye and rode to his office in downtown Chicago in a black SUV. He spent the day reviewing bills and dealing with budget issues in front of a bust of Abraham Lincoln and an American flag.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero described the governor’s mood as “upbeat” and “positive” and said “there’s a sense of trying to return to normalcy.” He said he knew of no decision about Blagojevich’s political future or what the governor might do with Obama’s seat.

His refusal to step down has struck some as odd given that wiretaps portrayed him as bored with his job, saying he was “struggling financially” and did “not want to be governor for the next two years.”

But staying in office provides a financial benefit amid the turmoil: He continues to draw a $177,000-a-year salary. Some observers also wondered whether he might be seeking a deal with prosecutors to use the governor’s office as a bargaining chip, possibly agreeing to step down in exchange for leniency.

There was also worry that the governor might still pick a senator, although it doesn’t appear that anyone would accept his nomination.

The decision to launch impeachment proceedings largely rests with House Speaker Michael Madigan, who faces a strong desire among his members for quick action. They said voters are demanding it, and lawmakers are transmitting that message to Madigan.

Four House Democrats sent a letter to their colleagues Thursday seeking support for a motion to impeach Blagojevich. The letter asks members to indicate whether they oppose the idea or support it, or even whether they want to co-sponsor the motion.

Democratic Rep. Jack Franks, one of the governor’s fiercest critics, said he hopes Madigan will soon make clear that the House will launch impeachment proceedings unless Blagojevich resigns.

“It would be music to the ear of everyone in this state,” Franks said.

He said he has gotten “a deluge” of calls from lawmakers wanting to be part of any impeachment committee.

Madigan, a Chicago Democrat who has often clashed with Blagojevich, said he will meet Monday with House Republican Leader Tom Cross to discuss impeachment. Cross said when they talk, he will urge Madigan to act immediately.

“I think you start next week. Why wait?” Cross said. The governor’s “ability to lead is gone and its irreparable.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the daughter of the House speaker, threatened again to file a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to have Blagojevich declared unfit to hold office if he doesn’t resign soon or get impeached.

“Obviously right now, in the best of all possible worlds, the governor would do what’s right for the people of the state of Illinois. He would resign,” said Madigan, a longtime Blagojevich foe considering a run for governor in 2010.

But “at this point he appears to be staying put,” and Madigan wants a signal from lawmakers about whether they will move quickly on impeachment proceedings.

Quinn said the impeachment process should begin when the Legislature convenes. If lawmakers don’t take action, he would support Madigan going to the Supreme Court.

Legislative leaders planned a special session Monday to strip Blagojevich of his power to pick a new U.S. senator, putting the decision in the hands of Illinois voters instead.

Quinn strongly criticized the possibility of a special election to fill Obama’s seat, saying it would take too long, leaving Illinois with just one senator in Washington for months. Quinn said he has not spoken to potential Senate appointees and doesn’t have a short list of candidates.

If he becomes governor, Quinn said his “first order of business” will be appointing a senator. He did not flatly rule out choosing a Republican, saying he would pick the most qualified candidate.


Source: AP


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