Ill. Gov. Presides over Senate That Will Try Him
January 14, 2009 - 5:39 PMIllinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Wednesday presided over a tense swearing-in ceremony for the state Senate that must ultimately decide whether to oust him.
Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to auction off President-elect Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat, did not address his predicament, instead sticking to formalities as senators greeted him with silence.
One senator mentioned the governor's upcoming impeachment trial as one of many challenges facing the state. The awkward moment came as Sen. Lou Viverito moved to elect a new Senate president, making a point of the nominee's stellar ethics.
"Today we have the opportunity to make one significant and meaningful step toward ... restoring the public's trust," said Viverito, a Democrat from Burbank.
For his part, the Democratic governor was all business, politely applauding as he welcomed by name several of the same state officials who have called on him to resign, including Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who would become governor if Blagojevich is removed from office.
Blagojevich came to the podium through a back entrance and without ceremony, hitting the gavel to begin the session as is required by the state constitution.
The Illinois House impeached Blagojevich last week on a 114-1 vote, more than a month after his Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges. New House members being sworn in Wednesday were expected to take another vote as a precaution to assure that the impeachment would stand.
Blagojevich is the state's first governor to face an impeachment trial and the first public official since a circuit judge in 1833 was impeached but acquitted. The state Senate's trial is scheduled to start Jan. 26.
Sen. John Cullerton of Chicago, a Democrat and the incoming Senate president, said he hopes to move quickly with the impeachment trial and finish by Feb. 4.
"You don't want to have the cloud of an impeachment trial hanging over the normal, regular legislative session," he said.
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