CHICAGO — The speaker of the Illinois House said Sunday he doesn't think a bill taking away the governor's power to appoint President-elect Barack Obama's Senate replacement would have stopped Gov. Rod Blagojevich from making the appointment.
If the Legislature had passed a bill calling for a special election to fill the seat, Blagojevich could have vetoed it and made the appointment before an override vote could be held, Speaker Michael Madigan said on WGN-AM.
But House Republican Leader Tom Cross called the Democrats' failure to push for a special election "a huge mistake."
"It's indicative of a kind of behavior and attitude of 'We don't get it, we've learned nothing and we're going to keep doing things the same old way,'" Cross said, speaking on WGN after Madigan.
Soon after Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest on federal corruption charges, legislative leaders said they were preparing to quickly schedule a special election.
However, no bill was put forward, and Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat on Dec. 30. Senate Democrats have refused to seat Burris because of the federal charges against the governor, which include allegations he tried to sell the seat to the highest bidder.
Senate leaders have appeared to soften their stance on seating Burris. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would vote on whether to seat Burris after Senate lawyers review documents he has presented and look over his testimony before the Illinois House impeachment panel. During that testimony, Burris said he promised Blagojevich nothing in exchange for the seat.
Madigan said he believes Burris will eventually become the state's junior senator.
Madigan also said he's confident Blagojevich will be removed from office. The Illinois House impeached him Friday, and the governor now faces a trial in the state Senate. If convicted, he will be forced out.