3273Illinois House impeaches Gov. Rod Blagojevich
- Jan 9, 2009http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090109/ap_on_re_us/illinois_governor
Illinois House impeaches Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Christopher Wills, Associated Press Writer –
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois House voted overwhelmingly Friday to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich, an unprecedented action that sets up a Senate trial on whether he should be thrown out for abuse of power, including allegations that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.
Impeachment required just 60 votes. The final result was 114-1.
Legislators accused the second-term Democratic governor of letting down the people of Illinois by letting ego and ambition drive his decisions.
"It's our duty to clean up the mess and stop the freak show that's become Illinois government," said Rep. Jack D. Franks, a Democrat.
Blagojevich was out jogging in his Chicago neighborhood when the vote came down.
Blagojevich refused to answer any specific questions about the vote, but upon returning from his jog, he likened his situation to long-distance running.
"Let me simply say I feel like the old Alan Sillitoe short story 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.' ... And that's what this is by the way, a long-distance run," he said.
He then promised to say more at an afternoon news conference.
During the House's 90-minute debate on impeachment, no one spoke up to defend the governor. But Rep. Milton Patterson, a Chicago Democrat, made the sole vote against impeaching Blagojevich.
Patterson said he read the impeachment committee's report and wasn't comfortable voting against the governor. "I have no firsthand knowledge of any of the evidence," he said.
"I went by my own gut feeling, it's as simple as that," he said. "I read the report. If the government is going to indict him, let them go ahead and do that. That's their job and I'm doing my job."
Rep. Elga Jefferies, another Chicago Democrat, voted "present."
Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges that include allegations he schemed to profit from his power to name Obama's replacement in the Senate. The criminal complaint included an FBI agent's sworn affidavit describing wiretaps that caught Blagojevich allegedly talking about what he could get for the seat, how to pressure people into making campaign contributions and more.
That arrest triggered impeachment hearings by a special House committee.
The committee on Thursday unanimously recommended impeachment based on the criminal charges but other allegations as well — that Blagojevich expanded a health care program without proper authority, that he circumvented hiring laws to give jobs to political allies, that he spent millions of dollars on foreign flu vaccine that he knew wasn't needed and couldn't be brought into the country.
"The citizens of this state must have confidence that their governor will faithfully serve the people and put their interests before his own," the committee's report said. "It is with profound regret that the committee finds that our current governor has not done so."
Blagojevich has denied the criminal charges. He criticized the House impeachment process as biased and said a Senate trial would produce a different result.
But he didn't testify before the House impeachment committee and hasn't offered an explanation for the federal charges.
"His silence in this great matter is deafening," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat.