Originally posted: January 9, 2009
House votes to impeach Blagojevich
Posted by Ray Long and Rick Pearson a 10:25 a.m.; last updated at 10:40 a.m.; (for the live blog, scroll down)
SPRINGFIELD---In a historic vote, the Illinois House has impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, directing the Senate to put the state’s 40th chief executive on trial with the goal of removing him from office.
The vote by the House was 114-1 and marks the first time in the state's 190-year history that a governor has been impeached, despite Illinois' longstanding reputation for political corruption.
Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago's Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn't feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.
A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign. A 2 p.m. news conference with the governor is scheduled for the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
The actions of the House--approving an article of impeachment maintaining Blagojevich had committed abuses of power--represents the equivalent of an indictment.
The impeachment resolution covering Blagojevich's actions "show a public servant who has betrayed his oath of office, who has betrayed the public trust, who is not fit to govern the state of Illinois,” said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the Chicago Democrat who headed a special panel that recommended Blagojevich’s impeachment a day earlier.
Next week, when the Senate convenes, it will begin the process of setting up a trial of the governor in which each of the 59 state senators act as judge and jurors.
A total of 40 senators are needed to convict Blagojevich which would remove the governor from office and make Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn the state’s new chief executive. A trial is expected to take at least three weeks.
While the debate was free of partisanship, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna was quick to criticize Democrats following the impeachment vote.
"After six years of enabling and endorsing Rod Blagojevich, the Democrats who run this state waited until Illinois faced national embarrassment to act and are now voting to impeach a governor they worked to re-elect only two years ago," McKenna said in a statement. "To make matters worse, these same Democrats have fed this crisis by refusing to strip the governor of his appointment powers, and are helping to seat Blagojevich's hand-picked and tainted choice for United States Senator."
House members had expressed hopes that the impeachment would encourage Blagojevich to resign from office to avoid the Senate trial. But Blagojevich has resisted calls for his resignation following his Dec. 9 arrest at his North Side home on federal corruption charges, including allegations he sought to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
On Thursday, after the House investigation's panel recommended Blagojevich’s impeachment, the governor said he looked forward to a trial in the Senate, presided over by the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, and “believes the outcome will be much different” from the House action.
Posted at 10:24 a.m.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is planning an afternoon press conference to address the House vote on impeachment, a spokesman said this morning.
The appearance is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.
Posted at 10:22 a.m.
Rep. Al Riley (D-Hazel Crest) told young people that while lawmakers are sad to impeach Blagojevich, it's not a sad day because "it proves that the system works."
Riley recalled that the sun still came up and the mail was delivered the day after President Kennedy was shot.
Posted at 10:20 a.m.
Rep. Eddie Acevedo (D-Chicago) said Blagojevich's situation is a distraction from all the other work to be done in state government.
"He is simply unable to govern as a governor should," he said.
Posted at 10:15 a.m.
Where, you might ask, is Gov. Rod Blagojevich as the Illinois House debates his impeachment?
A Tribune photographer took pictures of Blagojevich going jogging in his Ravenswood Manor neighborhood at about 10 a.m.
Posted at 10:10 a.m.
Rep. Careen Gordon (D-Morris) said Blagojevich can attempt to repair his image, but shouldn't be allowed to do so "on state time."
"Our time is being wasted on the shortcomings of one man," she said.
Gordon also talked a lot about the various times she took the oath of office, saying that politicians should mean it when they do so.
"Sadly, the governor of the state of Illinois never meant a word when he said that he would uphold the Illinois Constitution," Gordon said. "He is not the rule. He is the exception."
Posted at 10:00 a.m.
Rep. David Miller (D-Calumet City) is asking Reps. Currie and Durkin about Blagojevich's due process rights, apparently to get on the record an explanation of why Blagojevich could be impeached despite not being found guilty in a criminal court.
Had some technical difficulties and did not hear the remarks of Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago).
Posted at 9:55 a.m.
Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), a longtime Blagojevich critic, said it's the House's duties to "clean up the mess" and "stop the freak show" that has become Illinois government.
"The plague that has been brought upon our state by Rod Blagojevich will be lifted," he said.
Franks said voting for impeachment is his "finest moment as a state legislator."
Posted at 9:45 a.m.
State Rep. Susan Mendoza (D-Chicago) said the impeachment report is "astounding."
"The governor has clearly, clearly been unable to govern for far too long," she said. "It's been an ugly and shameful spectacle. Rod Blagojevich, you should be ashamed of yourself...take your sullied place in history."
Posted at 9:40 a.m.
Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), an impeachment panel member, laid out the standard for impeachment: it's up to the individual members to decide what constitutes "cause" for impeachment.
"This report is all about a governor abusing his power," Lang said. He then noted it's President Nixon's birthday and compared Blagojevich to Nixon, who resigned before being impeached.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we deserve better," said Lang, calling the impeachment resolution the most important vote of his career.
Posted at 9:35 a.m.
Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago), whose district includes Blagojevich's North Side home, said he never thought he'd be voting on an impeachment resolution. He then quoted from Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divided" speech.
"This House is not divided against itself, it is united...It is united to restore the faith in state government," said Fritchey, an ally of Blagojevich's estranged father-in-law, Chicago Ald. Richard Mell.
Fritchey then went on to tweak President-elect Barack Obama's campaign slogan, saying when it comes to restoring the people's faith, it's not a matter of "Yes, we can," but "Yes, we will."
Posted at 9:30 a.m.
Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), the minority spokesman on the impeachment panel, told his colleagues the evidence against Blagojevich is overwhelming and went without rebuttal by the governor. He then ticked off a list of the governor's alleged offenses.
Impeaching Blagojevich "ensures the public and everyone in the state that a system of checks and balances works." But Durkin also warned that impeaching the governor doesn't remove him from office---that job will fall to the Senate during a trial later this month.
Posted at 9:20 a.m.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego, a onetime personal friend of Blagojevich who jogged with him in a photo op during the governor's first week in office, said there's no doubt the governor has violated the oath of office. Cross' minister father also baptized Blagojevich's daughters.
"You ought to be angry. You ought to be disgusted," said Cross, likening Blagojevich's actions in office to a home break-in. "We have no choice today but to vote yes on this resolution."
Posted at 9:07 a.m.
House Speaker Michael Madigan is running the floor today, which isn't usually the case on a garden-variety session day. He threw it to House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, who chaired the impeachment panel.
"We stand here today because of the perfidy of one man, Rod Blagojevich," Currie said. "Instead, he said he would fight, fight, fight and he castigated us as nothing better than a political lynch mob. Well, we're anything but that."
Currie said "vigilante" justice would have seen Blagojevich impeached within days of his Dec. 9 arrest. Currie said Blagojevich did not appear before the impeachment panel and the governor's lawyer didn't offer much of a defense for him.
Currie cited what she said is Blagojevich's betrayal of the public trust: allegations he tried to dole out state jobs and a Senate appointment and sign legislation all with an eye toward enriching himself, his wife or his campaign fund.
"They show a public servant who has betrayed his public office, who betrayed the public trust.... His silence in this grave matter is deafening," said Currie, adding Blagojevich is unfit to hold his office.
She urged the House to vote "yes" on impeaching Blagojevich.
Posted at 9:01 a.m.
The House is in session, with the invocation delivered by the brother of Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro). "Let truth stand over preference," said Rev. Milton Bost of Chatham Baptist Church, while acknowledging the state and nation will be watching today.
Rep. Bost then led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago), a Blagojejvich ally, is the only lawmaker reported absent, though only 115 of the 118 answered the roll call.