Blagojevich Impeached; Senate Trial Next

The Illinois House's vote to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich was all but unanimous. Next, the state's Senate will conduct a trial — and it only needs a two-thirds majority to oust the governor. How long can he stay in office?

Host Scott Simon talks to NPR News Analyst Juan Williams about the national political fallout from the controversy over the impeachment of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Illinois House Votes To Impeach Governor

Speaker Michael Madigan presides over the Illinois House of Representatives. i i

Speaker Michael Madigan presides over the Illinois House of Representatives as lawmakers discuss a resolution to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Scott Olson/Getty Images
Speaker Michael Madigan presides over the Illinois House of Representatives.

Speaker Michael Madigan presides over the Illinois House of Representatives as lawmakers discuss a resolution to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Illinois House voted Friday to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich, making him the first chief executive in the state's history to face the ignominy of a trial before the state Senate.

Blagojevich, who is looking at criminal corruption charges for allegedly using his office in a scheme that included trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, was impeached by a 114-1 vote. The decision came exactly one month after federal prosecutors unveiled corruption charges against the governor.

Blagojevich has denied the criminal charges. He criticized the House impeachment process as biased and said a Senate trial would produce a different result.

At a brief appearance before reporters Friday, Blagojevich characterized the impeachment as a political vendetta executed against him by the House.

"The House's action today and the causes of the impeachment are because I've done things to fight for families that are with me here today," said Blagojevich, flanked by people he said represented the issues facing Illinois. He did not take questions from reporters.

The governor said he would be "properly exonerated."

Democratic Rep. Jack Franks was one of many who urged his colleagues to vote in favor of impeachment. Franks called his role in the process his proudest moment as a legislator.

"It's our duty to clean up the mess and to stop the freak show that has become Illinois government," he said.

Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges that he schemed to profit from his position as governor. The criminal complaint included an FBI agent's sworn affidavit describing wiretaps that caught Blagojevich allegedly talking about what he could get in exchange for appointing someone to Obama's seat.

A House committee on Thursday had unanimously recommended impeachment. The vote was based in part on the criminal charges but also other allegations as well — that Blagojevich expanded a health care program without proper authority, that he circumvented hiring laws to give jobs to political allies and that he spent millions of dollars on foreign flu vaccine that he knew wasn't needed and couldn't be brought into the country.

Democratic Rep. Suzanna Mendoza said Blagojevich's legacy would be "cloaked in shame and darkness."

"It's been an ugly and shameful spectacle," she said.

The committee's report said citizens of Illinois "must have confidence that their governor will faithfully serve the people and put their interests before his own. It is with profound regret that the committee finds that our current governor has not done so."

Blagojevich chose not to testify before the House panel that recommended his impeachment. "His silence in this great matter is deafening," said House Democratic Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie.

From NPR staff and wire reports

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