SPRINGFIELD---In a historic vote, the Illinois House has impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, directing the Senate to put the state's 40th chief executive on trial with the goal of removing him from office.
The vote by the House was 114-1 with one member voting "present." It marks the first time in the state's 190-year history that a governor has been impeached, despite Illinois' longstanding reputation for political corruption.
Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeachment. The "present" vote was cast by Rep. Elga Jefferies (D-Chicago).A spokesman for the governor said he won't resign.
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The actions of the House--approving an article of impeachment maintaining Blagojevich had committed abuses of power--represents the equivalent of an indictment.
The impeachment resolution covering Blagojevich's actions "show a public servant who has betrayed his oath of office, who has betrayed the public trust, who is not fit to govern the state of Illinois," said Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, the Chicago Democrat who headed a special panel that recommended Blagojevich's impeachment a day earlier.
Next week, when the Senate convenes, it will begin the process of setting up a trial of the governor in which each of the 59 state senators act as judge and jurors.
A total of 40 senators are needed to convict Blagojevich, which would remove the governor from office and make Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn the state's new chief executive. A trial is expected to take at least three weeks.
House members had expressed hopes that the impeachment would encourage Blagojevich to resign from office to avoid the Senate trial. But Blagojevich has resisted calls for his resignation following his Dec. 9 arrest at his North Side home on federal corruption charges, including allegations he sought to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
On Thursday, after the House investigation's panel recommended Blagojevich's impeachment, the governor said he looked forward to a trial in the Senate, presided over by the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, and "believes the outcome will be much different" from the House action.
--Ray Long and Rick Pearson