Published: Saturday | January 10, 2009
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (AP):
The Illinois House yesterday voted overwhelmingly to impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich - an unprecedented action that sets up a state Senate trial on whether he should be thrown out for abuse of power, including allegations that he tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.
Impeachment required just 60 votes. The final result was 114-1. The second-term governor now faces a trial in the Senate.
If convicted by a two-thirds majority, he would be removed from office.
Legislators accused the second-term Democratic governor of letting down the people of Illinois by letting ego and ambition drive his decisions.
"It's our duty to clean up the mess and stop the freak show that's become Illinois government," said Jack D Franks, a Democrat.
Republican leader Tom Cross was one of many lawmakers who called the Blagojevich scandal "an embarrassment" that has made Illinois a national laughingstock.
Blagojevich was out jogging in his Chicago neighbourhood when the vote came down. He refused to answer any specific questions about the vote, but upon returning from his jog, he likened his situation to long-distance running.
"Let me simply say I feel like the old Alan Sillitoe short story 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.' And that's what this is by the way, a long-distance run," he said.
The scandal involving the Illinois governor has been a distraction for Obama in the weeks leading up to his January 20 inauguration.
Obama and several of his aides have been questioned by federal investigators about their contacts with Blagojevich regarding the vacant Senate seat, but they have not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
During the House's 90-minute debate on impeachment, no one spoke in defence of the governor.
But Representative Milton Patterson, a Chicago Democrat, cast the sole vote against impeaching Blagojevich.