Deja Vu: House Impeaches Blago

Senate begins proceedings for trial

The Illinois House was sworn in on Wednesday to start the year's legislative session -- and immediately voted again voted to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The original vote, made on Friday, was 114-1, with another vote of "present" and two representatives absent.  Wednesday's vote was 117-1, with the sole "no" vote coming from the governor's sister-in-law, Rep. Deb Mell.

"Given my unique relationship to the Governor, this is a vote to which I have given a great deal of consideration," Mell said in a statement released shortly after the vote.  "I have known the Governor for more than 20 years and the charges in the impeachment were difficult to reconcile with the man and brother-in-law I know.  I could not in good conscience vote for his impeachment. I regard him as innocent until proven guilty and many of my constituents have expressed this view. I want to focus on moving forward, working on rebuilding our economy and providing excellent constituent services to the people I represent."

Technically, the impeachment votes made Blagojevich the first-ever governor to be impeached twice within one week.

Illinois House Speaker spokesman Steve Brown said the second impeachment vote was needed because the previous chamber's vote had expired and legislators wanted to be sure the move stands for the upcoming Senate trial.

"Our Inauguration Day is traditionally a day exclusively for celebration, but the oath we've just taken requires that we immediately take up the issue of the governor's lack of fidelity to the state constitution and its laws," Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said before Wednesday's vote.

Secretary of State Jesse White, a fellow Democrat who had refused to certify Blagojevich's appointment of Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, presided over the swearing-in of the new Illinois House.

White became a central figure in the drama over the Burris appointment after U.S. Senate leaders refused to seat Burris, citing the lack of White's signature on his certification papers. White had refused to sign because of the criminal allegations against Blagojevich but insisted that his signature was not required to make the appointment valid.
The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with him, and U.S. Senate Democrats eventually backed down, agreeing that Burris could be sworn in on Thursday.
At the Illinois House ceremony Wednesday, Republican state Rep. William Black praised White for standing firm.
"In the last few days, sir, you have been a profile of courage, and I thank you," Black said as many people stood and applauded.
Longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and longtime Blagojevich foe, praised his colleagues Wednesday before they were set to vote again on impeachment.

"To all the members of the House ... Every one of us conducted ourselves in a very professional manner as we worked through the
question of impeachment," Madigan said.
Blagojevich is the state's first governor to face an impeachment trial and the first public official since a circuit judge in 1833 was impeached but acquitted.

Prior to the House's vote, the governor presided over a tense swearing-in of the state Senate that will ultimately decide whether to oust him, telling the lawmakers he hopes they will "find the truth and sort things out."  [Read More on the Senate's Swearing-In]

The Senate's trial is scheduled to start Jan. 26.  New Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago, said he hopes to have the trial completed by Feb. 4.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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