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Is The Illinois Legislature Bungling L’Affaire Blagojevich ?

by @ 3:41 pm on December 16, 2008. Filed under In The News, Politics, Rod Blagojevich

It’s beginning to look a lot like the Illinois legislature is bungling the efforts to remove Governor Rod Blagojevich.

For example, when Blagojevich was first arrested last week, moves were made to convene the legislature this week for the express purpose of passing a law to remove the decision on replacing Barack Obama in the Senate from his hands.

Now, it looks like those efforts have been abandoned:

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) — Democrats in the Illinois House of Representatives postponed stripping Governor Rod Blagojevich’s power to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama that prosecutors say Blagojevich tried to sell.

The governor, a Chicago Democrat, retains authority to appoint Obama’s successor while the House pursues an impeachment process that may last weeks. Democratic lawmakers led by House Speaker Michael Madigan dropped plans late yesterday to schedule a special election to fill the post after failing to agree in a closed-door meeting, said Steve Brown, a Madigan aide.


Democrats in the House met yesterday and aired “differences of opinion on the best way to proceed” with a special election for Obama’s seat, Brown said. The differences could not be overcome so a vote on taking the decision away from Blagojevich was “deferred for now,” he said.

As if that weren’t bad enough, it now appears that any impeachment effort, which will likely take months to begin with, is stalled in the legislature:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A committee of the Illinois House considering evidence and testimony in an impeachment inquiry against Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich adjourned its first day of hearings after about an hour on Tuesday, after the governor’s lawyer and the federal prosecutor seeking to indict him both expressed concerns.

Members of the 21-member committee, appointed Monday, said that United States Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald had asked for them more details about the witnesses the committee planned to call in its hearings. Mr. Fitzgerald asked the committee for a formal letter outlining its plans, indicating some reluctance about having witnesses testify who might harm the federal case.

The lawyer for Mr. Blagojevich, Edward Genson, also objected, saying that he wanted to be present at the proceedings. The committee agreed, and Mr. Genson, who was not at the hearing on Tuesday, said he would be there when the committee reconvenes Wednesday morning.

Mr. Genson, a noted Chicago-based criminal defense attorney who confirmed Monday that he had been retained by Mr. Blagojevich, said: “He’s not guilty, so we’re going to go to court. We’re not agreeing to impeachment. If you read these transcripts closely, you’ll find that nobody did anything. People are just talking, and that’s not against the law.”

As he put it, “Bad language doesn’t make you a criminal.”

The Associated Press reported that Mr. Blagojevich ignored reporters’ questions as he left his house in Chicago on Tuesday morning, carrying a briefcase and gym bag. On Monday, he went to work as usual and signed 11 bills into law, including one that increased tax credits to encourage films being made in Illinois.

The confusion over the committee’s procedures and plans was the latest indication that many questions remained as to how state lawmakers will pursue impeachment. No Illinois governor has ever been impeached, and the state constitution gives little direction. As a result, many lawmakers here were wrestling with the dimensions of what the committee would be trying to prove and how its work might clash with criminal proceedings by federal prosecutors.

At this point, between an impeachment process that is likely to last well into the new year and a Supreme Court petition that seems to have little legal merit, it seems rather clear that Blagojevich is going to be in office for some time to come unless he resigns, which he shows no sign of doing.

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