12/22/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald Should Stay: Durbin

Sen. Dick Durbin said Friday he will recommend another term for corruption-busting federal prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald if he wants to stay on as Chicago's U.S. attorney.

Durbin told a news conference that he first wants to sit down with the city's top federal prosecutor and ask him what he wants in the future. Asked if he would recommend that President-elect Barack Obama renominate Fitzgerald, Durbin said: "Yes."

"I think he has done an extraordinary job as U.S. attorney; I have the greatest confidence in him," Durbin said. "I want to do what he wants to do, I want to support what he wants to do and I won't presume what that is."

Fitzgerald has aggressively prosecuted state and city officials for corruption. The previous governor, George Ryan, is currently serving a 6 1/2-year term for racketeering, and Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration is under investigation.

There has been speculation that some Illinois officials would like to see Fitzgerald elevated to a high-ranking Justice Department job or some other distant post, far from the hands-on investigations of corruption in this city and state.

Fitzgerald, a New Yorker, became U.S. attorney in Chicago in September 2001.

The job of U.S. attorney, like U.S. district judgeships, most often goes to the person recommended by the senior senator of the president's party - Durbin, in the case of the incoming president.

Durbin also spoke about the economy, ripping into auto industry leaders and calling them out of touch with ordinary people. But he indicated there's still a chance for the industry to get a $25 billion bailout.

He said the automaker CEOs failed to make the right impression this week when they visited Washington to seek the bailout. He wasn't specific, but the executives were shown on television arriving by corporate jet.

"Some of the questions about their own lifestyles and their own compensation really showed the wide chasm between families that are suffering with the loss of savings, workers who are losing their jobs and corporate officials," Durbin said.

But Durbin indicated that Detroit might still get its bailout if the companies can make the case that it would dig them out of their current financial woes.

On another matter, Durbin said he had tried to talk with Blagojevich about who should fill the Senate seat already vacated by Obama but hadn't heard back from the governor. He said Blagojevich should make filling the seat a high priority because seniority on Capitol Hill is at stake.

If the new senator is sworn in now, he or she will have seniority over a handful of other Democrats who will take the oath of office in January.

That seniority could give the new Illinois senator a leg up over the others in terms of committee assignments or ranking on committees, among other things, Durbin said.