These details aside, it is likely that the panel will soon produce a recommendation for consideration by the entire state house (UPDATE: a draft report was circulated on Thursday, with a possible vote in the full House on Friday). If impeached, a trial would ensure in the state senate, where the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, Thomas R. Fitzgerald, would preside. As you may have heard, Blagojevich's potential replacement, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, predicts that the ordeal will be over by Lincoln's bicentennial next month, but this represents at best an educated guess from a man with more than a little skin in the game.
On the criminal investigation front, the process has trudged forward slowly with testimony by affected figures, including incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has asked for an extension in his duty to produce indictments against Blagojevich and his former Chief of Staff John Harris. Fitzgerald is also attempting to release edited transcripts of the notorious phone conversations between Blagojevich, his the Chief of Staff, and potential suitors in his pay-to-play schemes.
As for now, Blagojevich remains governor, and he proceeded last week to use his powers to name a replacement to President-elect Obama's senate seat. He elevated former state attorney general and perennial gubernatorial candidate Roland Burris to the position, but Secretary of State Jesse White has refused to certify the appointment. This has provided limited legal cover for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to refuse to seat any individual appointed by the tainted governor. Burris has already appealed twice to the state supreme court to force White to act or consider Blagojevich's appointment official through bypassing this formality.
Reid is relying on his interpretation of the Constitution, which in Article One, Section Five, reads: "Each house shall be the Judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members..." Yet Article One, Section Three, sets the requirements of office for the Senate at 30 years of age, residency in the U.S. for the past 9 years, and currently living in the state which he or she will represent. Burris is 72 and a lifelong resident of Illinois, so he is qualified by all measures. Moreover, Blagojevich remains governor and is charged to the duty to fill a vacated senate seat. By implication, then, both Reid and White appear to be standing on thin January ice (Update: On Wednesday, responding to pressure from President-elect Obama, Reid opened the door for Burris' seating once his appointment is officially certified).
An interesting side note enters the equation here, too, for Blagojevich set the dates for a special election to fill the vacated House seat of the aforementioned Emanuel. This was certified by White, and the primary will transpire on March 3rd, followed by the general election on April 7th. This apparent contradiction further weakens the case of those who claim Burris' appointment is illegitimate, as the governor acted according to the law in each instance.
A broader assessment of the situation shows that Blagojevich called called the collective bluffs of those who dared him to make the senate appointment. In naming the African-American Burris, he brought local congressman and former Black Panther leader Bobby Rush into the fray, who claimed that denying Burris a seat would constitute "lynching" in the last "plantation" of politics, the United States Senate (Obama was the only African-American member). Also interesting to note is the fact that Obama himself supported Burris is his quest for governor back in 2002, a race where Blagojevich defeated him in the Democratic primary and went on to win the general election that year, and again in 2006.
It is likely that Burris will assume his coveted Senate seat before long, and he may or may not be tainted by the baggage that is Blagojevich. Regardless, his tenure is a brief one, as he would stand for re-election in 2010, and the race for his seat will undoubtedly heat up by this summer. Illinois residents may have been stymied in their ability to replace Obama via special election (the state house and senate never acted despite initial statements of support in the affirmative), but they will have a voice before long, and perhaps this related soap opera surrounding the Prairie State will soon turn to re-runs.