With impeachment, Illinois takes first step to remove Blagojevich
The defiant governor quotes Tennyson and vows to fight the charges against him.
The Illinois legislature made history Friday by impeaching Gov. Rod Blagojevich – the first governor in the state to meet such a fate – and set the stage for a trial in the Illinois Senate that could convict him and remove him from office.Skip to next paragraph
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While the 114-to-1 vote was hardly a surprise, it occurred more quickly than some observers initially expected, perhaps sped up by legislators' anger over the governor's decision to defy their wishes and appoint a replacement for President-elect Obama's vacated US Senate seat.
In its recommendation for impeachment, a House special panel included the charges detailed in the criminal complaint against Governor Blagojevich – that he tried to "sell" the US Senate seat, pressured the Chicago Tribune to fire editorial board members, and engaged in illegal "pay-to-play" politics. But the recommendation also laid out a broader array of complaints, stating that Blagojevich disregarded authority and procedure, advocating policies that disregarded state and federal laws, and violated laws in hiring and firing employees.
"I think they went out of their way to emphasize that this is a political rather than a judicial process," says Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois in Springfield. "Their argument is [that] in the totality of the actions ... he has violated the oath of office through the abuse of power."
The governor is not backing down, however. In a press conference Friday afternoon, a defiant Blagojevich focused on some of the broader charges made against him, claiming that many of the offenses included in the article of impeachment were in fact accomplishments that benefit the people of Illinois and that required him to circumvent an uncooperative legislature.
He cited his efforts to expand health insurance and coverage and to push a program to import cheaper drugs from Canada, among other things.
"I took actions with the advice of lawyers and experts to find creative ways to use the executive authority of the governor to get real things done for people who rely on us," he declared. "In many cases, the things we did for people literally saved lives. I don't believe those are impeachable offenses."
Earlier in the day, returning from a snowy run while the House voted to impeach him, Blagojevich compared his circumstances to the short story, "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner." At his press conference, Blagojevich again declared his innocence and stated his intention to fight to the end, while quoting Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses," which ends "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."