The Illinois House voted overwhelmingly Friday to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich, an unprecedented action that sets up a Senate trial on whether he should be thrown out for allegedly trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
Impeachment required just 60 votes. The final result was 114-1.
Legislators accused the second-term Democratic governor of letting down the people of Illinois by letting ego and ambition drive his decisions.
"It’s our duty to clean up the mess and stop the freak show that’s become Illinois government," said Rep. Jack D. Franks, a Democrat.
Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges that include allegations he schemed to profit from his power to name Obama’s replacement in the Senate. The criminal complaint included an FBI agent’s sworn affidavit describing wiretaps that caught Blagojevich allegedly talking about what he could get for the seat, how to pressure people into making campaign contributions and more.
That arrest triggered impeachment hearings by a special House committee.
The committee on Thursday unanimously recommended impeachment based on the criminal charges but 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, that he spent millions of dollars on foreign flu vaccine that he knew wasn’t needed and couldn’t be brought into the country.
"The citizens of this state must have confidence that their governor will faithfully serve the people and put their interests before his own," the committee’s report said. "It is with profound regret that the committee finds that our current governor has not done so."
Blagojevich has denied the criminal charges. He criticized the House impeachment process as biased and said a Senate trial would produce a different result.
But he didn’t testify before the House impeachment committee and hasn’t offered an explanation for the federal charges.
"His silence in this great matter is deafening," said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat.