SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Officially, Illinois lawmakers will gather soon to consider a special election to replace President-elect Obama in the U.S. Senate — but it was already clear Sunday that ousting disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich was at the top of many to-do lists.
"On a scale of one to 10, impeachment is 25 and everything else is a two," said Rep. Jack Franks, a fellow Democrat from Woodstock.
A legislative session beginning today will be the first since Blagojevich was arrested last week on charges that he tried to profit from his power to choose Obama's replacement and shook down businesses seeking state deals.
Republicans said Sunday that they plan to put intense public pressure on Democrats to move against Blagojevich. A spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said he will discuss the idea with Republican leaders today.
Meanwhile, Blagojevich was expected to firm up his legal representation after meeting over the weekend with Chicago attorney Ed Genson, who has defended media mogul Conrad Black and R&B singer R. Kelly. On Sunday, Blagojevich's wife, Patti, went into Genson's building.
Genson, a bulldog who generally takes his cases to trial, has said he and the governor would make a "mutual decision" today. Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero said the governor "has no plans on resigning Monday."
The GOP plans to run television ads pressuring Democrats to approve a special election to replace Obama. Blagojevich still holds the power to appoint a new senator, and if he resigned, that power would go to Democratic Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn.
A spokesman said Madigan, who has often clashed with Blagojevich, will discuss impeachment with Republican House Minority Leader Tom Cross today.
Franks said Madigan — a methodical man who never rushes decisions — listens to House members and will probably respond to public cries for impeachment. But Franks also said members will not be satisfied with a wait-and-see response.
Eighty percent of lawmakers responding to a GateHouse News Service survey said the Legislature should pursue impeachment quickly.
"Anything short of convening the (impeachment) committee would not be enough," Franks said.
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 that she expects word on whether the court will hear her request "probably just in a few days."
The state Constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor for any reason they consider sufficient. The House would decide whether to file charges against the governor, and the Senate would ultimately rule on them.