- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois’ House speaker took the first step Monday toward impeaching scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, appointing a special committee to recommend whether he should be ousted after his arrest on federal corruption charges.

“We’re going to proceed with all due speed, but we’re going to make sure that what we do is done correctly,” said House Speaker Michael Madigan, who often has clashed with fellow Democrat Blagojevich.

Once the committee comes up with a recommendation, the full House will formally decide whether to file impeachment charges. The Senate ultimately would rule on them.

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Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal fraud and bribery charges, including allegations of a scheme to profit from his power to appoint a replacement to President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.

The state constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor for any reason they consider sufficient.

The governor, who remained defiant and returned to work Monday to sign a tax credit bill, had no immediate reaction to the impeachment committee, spokesman Lucio Guerrero said after Madigan’s announcement.

“Impeachment talk’s nothing new for this governor,” Guerrero said. “They’ve been talking about it for a long time.”

Indeed, Madigan said Monday his staff has been reviewing the legal possibilities for impeachment for about a year. His his office produced a memo earlier this year outlining all the arguments legislative candidates could make in favor of impeachment.

Blagojevich’s administration has been under a federal corruption investigation for years.

Madigan was co-chair of Blagojevich’s re-election campaign but more recently has been one of the governor’s harshest critics. He often has refused to meet with Blagojevich or return his phone calls.

“I’ve had a chance to get to know Mr. Blagojevich over six years, so I was not surprised,” Madigan said Monday of the federal allegations. “In light of what we’ve all seen … how can anyone be surprised?”

But Madigan did not join the chorus of officials calling for Blagojevich’s resignation or indicate whether he thinks the governor should be impeached, saying he should remain neutral because he would preside over any impeachment debate.

Madigan’s daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has asked the state Supreme Court to remove Blagojevich from office, claiming he is unfit to serve. Madigan said Sunday she expects word on whether the court will hear her request “probably just in a few days.”

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