Quinn Cleaning Up in Washington

Governor: "Blagojevich is yesterday's tomato"

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday got face time with the president and passed out his cell phone number to Illinois lawmakers on Capitol Hill as he sought to mend fences now that his disgraced predecessor is out of office.

The trip to the nation's capital set Quinn apart from former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was rarely welcomed anywhere even before the state Senate ousted him from office on Thursday.

In an interview on MSNBC, Quinn said, "Rod Blagojevich is yesterday's tomato." He added that there has been a "tremendous coming together" in state politics in the few days since Blago was ousted and he took office.

Quinn came to Washington to discuss the economic stimulus package with Sens. Dick Durbin and Roland Burris and other members of the Illinois congressional delegation.

What he also got was a 10-minute chat with President Barack Obama at the White House.

Quinn said he and Obama had a "robust discussion" about the economic recovery bill, but the president made no commitments to him regarding funding in the package for the state.

"I think the president said he's not going to favor Illinois over any other state," Quinn told reporters at a news conference. "Everybody in, nobody left out, I think is his basic philosophy. And that's mine, too."

An $819 billion version of the economic stimulus plan passed the House last week, and the Senate is debating legislation.

Durbin's office estimates the Senate version could save or create more than 200,000 jobs across Illinois by the end of 2010 and could bring $25 billion in federal funding.

Quinn met for about an hour with the two Illinois senators and 11 members of the delegation at Durbin's office in the Capitol. With media present, the governor gave out his cell phone number to the lawmakers, which included U.S. Reps. Melissa Bean, Aaron Schock and Jesse Jackson Jr. among others.

Quinn later appeared a news conference surrounded by many of the delegation's members.

"We know that your administration is going to be different," Durbin told Quinn.

"I can tell you I've seen more of this governor in the last month than I did of the prior governor over the past six years he was in office," said Schock, a Peoria Republican newly elected to Congress after four years in the Statehouse.

Quinn said he knew it was hard to reach Blagojevich in the past. He said he didn't want that to be the case with him.

"Members of Congress who have ideas, who have great abilities, couldn't reach the governor," Quinn said. "We need to make sure that is rectified immediately."

Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 by the FBI and accused of using his office to demand campaign donations, including allegations he tried to sell an appointment to the Senate seat vacated by Obama.

Blagojevich has denied any wrongdoing.

Still, lawmakers in Washington sought to block Blagojevich from exercising any control over the money due the state from the economic stimulus measure. The provision in the House bill would have given control to the legislature instead. The idea was to make sure Blagojevich couldn't use the money to enrich himself or his associates.

But with his predecessor removed, Quinn can determine what to do with the money.

"This is a moment in history that we must step forward on and do our duty as Americans to help our economy out of a ditch," he said.

The Capitol and White House weren't Quinn's only stops in his one-day trip to Washington.

The governor also had lunch with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and was briefed on the stimulus bill at the National Governors Association.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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