Illinois House impeaches Blagojevich

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rod Blagojevich.
Image: United States Congress.

The Illinois House of Representatives voted to impeach state governor Rod Blagojevich in a near-unanimous 114-to-1 vote with three representatives not voting.

Blagojevich is facing charges of attempting to sell the state's opening for United States Senator when president-elect Barack Obama takes office on January 20. The vote will now move to the Illinois State Senate, where a two-thirds majority will be needed to officially remove Blagojevich from the position of Governor of Illinois.

Blagojevich was arrested on December 9 on suspicion of corruption charges, and was recommended for impeachment after an investigation from the United States House of Representatives. Blagojevich is the first United States governor to be impeached since 1988, when Evan Mecham of Arizona was impeached after a year and three months on the job.

At the beginning of the voting debate, impeachment committee leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a member of the United States Democratic Party and representing Chicago, said that Blagojevich's alleged actions: "Show a public servant who is prepared to turn public service into an avenue for private benefit. They 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."

She later said "The totality of the evidence shows that Gov. Blagojevich has forfeited his right to hold office. Whatever their stations, whether petty thieves or governors, those who break the law must not be immune from the consequences and must be held to account for their actions." Milton Patterson, a Democrat also representing Chicago, was the only member of the House of Representatives to vote against the impeachment of Blagojevich, but did not speak in defense of him.

The report that recommended his impeachment heavily criticized Blagojevich's actions. It stated that "the governor repeatedly demonstrated that his decision to appoint a senator would not be based on merits of the candidate or on public policy, but rather on how that appointment could benefit him personally. It added "The governor directed various individuals to conduct inquiries on his behalf to negotiate deals for the Senate appointment, affirmatively setting into action a plot to trade the Senate appointment for something of value to the governor."

Jack D. Franks, a Democratic representative also on the committee, also spoke, saying that "it’s our duty to clean up this mess and stop the freak show that has become government in Illinois. I believe we’re finally doing what we should have done a long time ago."

If Blagojevich's impeachment is ratified by the State Senate, he would immediately be removed from the office of governor and the state's Lieutenant Governor, Pat Quinn, would become the state's acting governor.