Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Expect the unexpected

Hilary Russell and Jamey Dunn contributed to this report
Since the governor’s public relations firm confirmed Gov. Rod Blagojevich plans to attend the last day of his impeachment trial Thursday, a lot of questions have come to bare.

One, from Sen. Susan Garrett, a Lake Forest Democrat: “How did we get here?”

But senators heard three days of testimony about that, including today’s allegations that Blagojevich abused his executive authority by trying to expand health care and import prescription drugs and doses of flu vaccine without legislative authority.

More immediate questions relate to what would happen if the Senate voted to convict the governor. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno made a remark in jest that hits on a such a logistical question as: How would the governor get home if he doesn’t have access to the state plane that he often took to get back to Chicago? “I hope he has a ride home because I don’t think he’s going to have the state police to take him,” she said jokingly.

If the Senate convicts Blagojevich, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn immediately would take over. Quinn will be in Springfield tomorrow, his spokesman said.

But then there’s speculation that Blagojevich could resign tomorrow, spawning more questions about how to handle the impeachment. The Senate is allowed to take two votes: the first to convict, the second to determine whether Blagojevich would be banned from holding public office in Illinois again. If the governor resigned, the vote to convict wouldn’t be necessary, said Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne. But what if the senators still wanted to prevent him from holding another office? He said that hadn’t been worked out by the time he addressed the media this evening.

Earlier in the day, after Senate President John Cullerton announced that Blagojevich would give closing remarks around 11 a.m. Thursday, senators said they weren’t that surprised. “He’s all about PR,” Radogno said. “He’s all about press releases. I mean that’s how he’s governed for the whole time that he’s been here.”

“I’ve pretty well formulated my decision, and I will reserve the right to change my mind and be open as I can about this,” said Sen. Dave Koehler, a Peoria Democrat. “But it’s just a bit bizarre how he’s handled this thing.”

Sen. Dale Risinger, a Peoria Republican, said it is surprising, however, that Blagojevich didn’t defend himself during the trial even though he’s often mentioned being a former Golden Glove boxer. “It’s hard to feel sorry for him because he’s not tried to defend him self,” he said.

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