SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Officially, Illinois lawmakers will gather soon to consider a special election to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate, but it was already clear yesterday that ousting disgraced Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich was at the top of many to-do lists.
"On a scale of one to 10, impeachment is 25, and everything else is a two," said Rep. Jack Franks, a fellow Democrat from Woodstock.
A legislative session beginning today will be the first since Blagojevich was arrested last week on charges that he tried to profit from his power to choose Obama's replacement and shook down businesses seeking state deals.
Republicans said yesterday that they planned to put public pressure on Democrats to move against Blagojevich. A spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said he would discuss the idea with Republican leaders today.
Meanwhile, Blagojevich was expected to firm up his legal team after meeting with lawyer Ed Genson, who has defended media mogul Conrad Black and R&B singer R. Kelly. Yesterday, Blagojevich's wife, Patti, went into Genson's building.
Genson, a bulldog who generally takes his cases to trial, has said he and the governor would make a "mutual decision" today. Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero said the governor "has no plans on resigning Monday."
Guerrero did not say whether Blagojevich could or would do anything to slow the legislature's move toward impeachment.
"The governor has indicated in the past there is more to this story that he's wanting to tell at an appropriate time," he said.
David Dring, spokesman for House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R., Oswego), said Republicans would step up the pressure on Democrats to remove Blagojevich.
"If they won't work with us, you'll probably see some good theater," Dring said.
The GOP also plans to run television ads pressuring Democrats to approve a special election to replace Obama. Blagojevich still holds the power to appoint a new senator, and if he resigned, that power would go to Democratic Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn.
Illinois Republican Party chairman Andy McKenna told reporters the ads will "make the point that this is the people's seat, and the people deserve a special election."
A spokesman said Madigan, who has often clashed with Blagojevich, would discuss impeachment with Cross today.
Franks said Madigan - a methodical man who never rushes decisions - listens to House members and will probably respond to public cries for impeachment.