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Why Blagojevich could remain in power for foreseeable future
By John Patterson | Daily Herald Staff

Governor Rod Blagojevich

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/10/2008 5:05 PM | Updated: 12/10/2008 9:13 PM

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SPRINGFIELD - Calls for his resignation are multiplying, state lawmakers are considering impeachment and stripping away his ability to name a U.S. senator, but for now and possibly the foreseeable future Gov. Rod Blagojevich remains the state's chief executive.

Barring Blagojevich quitting in the coming days, something many officials think is unlikely even as they recommend it, none of the potential remedies to the state's ethical dilemmas are speedy.

Take impeachment, for example. That process would begin in the Illinois House, which would weigh the circumstances and vote on whether to send an impeachment case onto the Illinois Senate for a trial and possible removal of the governor from office.

It's not a fast process.

"It can't be a slapdash kind of thing. That's not how (House Speaker) Mike Madigan operates," said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. "It would take some time. I don't know how much more quickly we'd get a resolution than a federal case."

An attempted impeachment of an Illinois Supreme Court justice in the 1990s took weeks. And at this point with Blagojevich, it's unclear what an impeachment case would focus on and what evidence would be available to lawmakers and the governor's legal team, especially since the federal case has yet to even go to trial let alone be proven.

Although President-elect Barack Obama joined the chorus of those calling for the governor's resignation, many doubt that will happen. His public office could be used as a bargaining chip with federal prosecutors. And the governor continues to proclaim his innocence. His spokesman said Wednesday the governor was "upbeat and positive."

As for impeachment, keep in mind Blagojevich served in Congress during Republicans' efforts to impeach President Clinton that were widely viewed as a political witch hunt.

"Unless all of a sudden he gets hit by lightning ... and decides to resign, I don't see Rod being gone for quite some time," said state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat.

And then there's the surefire plan to remove the governor's ability to name the next U.S. senator from Illinois. State lawmakers will convene next week to change state law and create a special election to name Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate.

The proposal is expected to easily pass both the state House and Senate next week.

But from there it goes to Blagojevich's desk and he then has 60 days to accept or reject it.

"He could play a lot of procedural games," said state Rep. Jack Franks, a McHenry County Democrat.

Further complicating the matter is that the current crop of lame-duck state lawmakers expires early next year. Newly elected members take office Jan. 14, all previous pending legislation is wiped out and the process starts anew.

It's possible that if there's not quick action by the governor, the new lawmakers would have to take up the proposal again, and it could be months before voters consider electing a replacement senator.