Under Illinois state law Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s power to appoint a replacement for President-Elect Barack Obama’s seat in the United States Senate does not end with his indictment but only with his resignation, impeachment, death, or other removal from office. The senator he appoints would serve until November 2010 (November of the next even numbered year).
At this point no appointment by Gov. Blagojevich could remain untainted by the governor’s indictment for corruption. There would always be a suspicion that he or she had bought the office in some manner, that there was some quid pro quo in the appointment, especially the idea that it might help Gov. Blagojevich in defending himself.
There is some doubt that Gov. Blagojevich’s successor could remove or reverse the appointment. On the one hand the Illinois Constitution says in Article V, Section 10:
SECTION 10. GOVERNOR – REMOVALS
The Governor may remove for incompetence, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office any officer who may be appointed by the Governor.
That would imply that Gov. Blagojevich’s successor, presumably Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, could remove any senator appointed by his predecessor. However, the United States Constitution says in Article I, Section 5:
Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each House may provide.
Under the principle of the priority of federal over state law this could be construed to limit the state’s ability to remove the senator.
In order to take an initial step to restore the good name of the state of Illinois and to preserve the state and, possibly, the country from a political, legal and constitutional nightmare, I would urge the Illinois legislature to impeach Gov. Blagojevich immediately.
This need not be a time-consuming process. Impeachment and removal from office are political acts not acts of criminal justice. The standard of proof is not necessarily innocent unless found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. There are no clear standards of proof: those are mostly up to the Illinois House and Senate. The preponderance of the evidence would be standard enough or even as low as the appearance of impropriety.
I urge all Illinoisans to write or call their Illinois Representatives and Senators to urge them to reconvene and remove Gov. Blagojevich from office immediately.
Illinois Lieutenant Gov. Pat Quinn has urged the Illinois legislature to strip the governor of his appointment power:
He advised the General Assembly to quickly pass legislation taking away the power from Blagojevich to appoint a U.S. Senate successor to President-elect Barack Obama. If Blagojevich were to veto that bill, the legislature should override the veto, he said.
It would take at least three days to pass such legislation, Quinn said.
Under Illinois law Quinn would succeed Blagojevich if he were removed from office.
Some action of this sort is an urgent necessity.
Update 2 (3:31pm)
Politico is reporting that Blagojevich will not resign:
CHICAGO— The attorney for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the governor will be vindicated and he has no plans to resign.
“He didn’t do anything wrong,” attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters after Blagojevich was arraigned. “A lot of this is just politics.”
Blagojevich should be in the office Wednesday, Sorosky added.
So, reporters asked, he does not intend to resign?
“Not that I know of, no,” said Sorosky, who added that the governor was “surprised” by the day’s events
That means it’s in the hands of the legislature. They’ve got to act now.
Dare I mention that, if the U. S. Senate refuses to seat a Blagojevich-appointed replacement for Barack Obama, it reduces the Democratic majority in the senate by one vote?