A Fitzmas Special?
Yesterday, the Illinois House took the first steps in an effort to impeach the sitting Governor, who was charged of orchestrating several pay-to-play schemes in a criminal complaint filed by Fitzgerald's office one week ago. A committee was formed and is set to meet today, composed of 12 Democrats and 9 Republicans. Like the federal process, if the charges are voted out of committee and also passed by the full House (all 113 members on hand yesterday voted in favor of beginning the proceedings), a trial is conducted in the State Senate.
Blagojevich could reasonably be convicted on impeachment charges and be removed from office, while also facing the federal criminal charges in a separate investigation. However, according to this New York Times piece, the allegations against Blagojevich specific to his scheming over the replacement of President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat may not hold up in court.
Speaking of the vacancy, the scrambling continues behind the scenes as to the process by which the seat will be filled. Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, should Blagojevich be relieved of his duties in one fashion or another, would have the power by law to make an appointment for the remaining two years of the term.
Last week, Quinn immediately called for a change to the law, allowing for a special election to coincide with previously scheduled municipal elections this coming spring. He then backtracked and claimed he was more than capable of making the decision himself. Most recently, he recalibrated his position once more, suggesting that he would make an immediate appointment so that Illinois had two senators serving on Day One of Obama's presidency, and a special election would follow to determine the individual who would serve the final two years of the term. Quinn promised that he would not appoint himself.
I remind you that Blagojevich is still the Governor and is thus fully capable of naming Obama's replacement until the day he is officially relieved of his duties. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged that he would not accept a replacement named by Blagojevich, and the Senate holds this authority to bar new members, so this checkmate stands.
Meanwhile, there is activity in the State Senate to move forward with a special election, although it is being pushed by Republicans and does not have the support of Senate President Emil Jones, a Democrat, at least as of now. The House adjourned yesterday after the impeachment vote, meaning that if it does act upon a special election measure, this will not take place until mid-January.
As citizens, it is interesting to watch from the sidelines as this political circus performs daily routines during the "Fitzmas" season, but perhaps we can do more. I invite you to weigh in on this blog with your own recommended solutions to this quagmire. Moreover, if you are a resident of Illinois, I encourage you to call your state representative and senator, or Lt. Gov. Quinn for that matter, and to voice your feelings about the various measures under debate (click here to find out who they are and to access their contact information). We, too, can play a role in cleaning up this pile of corrupt politics.