Blagojevich impeachment vote could be soon; Burris goes to Washington

| 1/6/2009

A vote on the impeachment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich could come by the end of the week in the state’s House.

The special panel created to look into any criminal wrongdoing by the governor following his arrest on federal corruption charges is moving forward to complete its work after Blagojevich named Roland Burris to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama.

“I assume we would take it up by Friday,” Rep. Jim Durkin, the top Republican on the 21-member committee, told Land Line in reference to the Illinois House proceedings.

The embattled governor is most notable to truckers for his stance on uniform speed limits. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been critical of the governor’s continued refusal to sign legislation that would eliminate split speed limits in Illinois.

The FBI arrested Blagojevich Dec. 9, 2008, on charges that included solicitation and bribes.

According to the criminal complaint, charges include soliciting payments from potential candidates to fill the vacant Senate seat. Blagojevich also is charged with offering political favors to The Chicago Tribune if it would agree to fire certain editors responsible for publishing articles critical of the governor.

The select group of Illinois House lawmakers is expected to make a recommendation to the full House on whether to impeach Blagojevich. It takes a simple majority in the chamber to impeach. A two-thirds margin would be needed in the Senate to complete the process.

Meanwhile, Burris, a former Democratic state attorney general, has traveled to Washington, DC, in hopes of being seated in the U.S. Senate. Reuters reported that Burris was denied entry on Tuesday, Jan. 6, when the chamber’s secretary rejected his credentials for the seat.

Durkin told Land Line that while he was surprised that Burris accepted the appointment, the Senate seat is rightfully his.

“I think (his acceptance) tarnished whatever reputation he had ... but I believe (Burris) is legally entitled to the seat,” Durkin said.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has refused to certify the appointment absent a court order, but Durkin said he believes it is only a matter of time before Burris is seated in the U.S. Senate.

“A court will eventually force (White) to make that certification. The secretary of state doesn’t have that discretion,” Durkin said.

“Barring anything we’re not aware of, I think the U.S. Senate is eventually going to have to seat him. They can fight it, but he does qualify for the seat under the United States Constitution. That is basically the only criteria the court needs to determine. They can fight it and drag it along as much as they want. But ultimately it will be defeated.”

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor