The nasty and brutish Statehouse war is officially over for everyone but House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The House Republicans made a big stink last week. It was totally expected. They were upset with House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie’s explanation for why she did not immediately inform the House impeachment committee that U.S. Sen. Roland Burris had submitted a new and highly explosive sworn affidavit. The affidavit created a media feeding frenzy because it raised serious questions about Burris’ truthfulness about his appointment to the Senate by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
What wasn’t expected is the way Speaker Madigan reacted to the minority Republicans. Madigan ordered his Rules Committee to pop a Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) resolution onto the floor which asked for an investigation by the Sangamon County State’s Attorney, who is already looking into whether Sen. Burris committed perjury during his impeachment committee testimony and via his affidavits.
The Franks resolution asked the state’s attorney to look into allegations made by Blagojevich on WLS Radio several days ago. Blagojevich claimed that a legislative leader asked him to find a state job for a legislator’s secretary after the legislator’s wife discovered the two were having an affair.
Cross immediately saw the move for exactly what it was: A blatant attempt to punish the House Republicans for speaking out about an issue they believed to be important. Cross excoriated Madigan and the Democrats for bringing Franks’ resolution to the floor and threatened to retaliate, vowing to ask the state’s attorney to investigate everything that Blagojevich has ever said and ever will say about hanky panky by House Democrats.
Since Cross took the bait, pretty much everyone under the dome immediately assumed that he was the legislative leader mentioned by Blagojevich, even though he later denied it.
But the Madigan trick worked. The emphasis was now off Currie and on a potential sex scandal involving a legislator. And because of that, the big issue on many minds last week was where Madigan’s move might eventually lead.
Legislators are human beings. They are therefore flawed. Attacking one member for an egregious personal mistake could open up the biggest can of worms imaginable. I mean, seriously, are they now going to start outing legislators, statewide officials and top staff who’ve succumbed to various human temptations? Can Madigan truly think he can sanctimoniously throw the first stone knowing what he does (and what others do) about his own people and what he has done to help them solve their little problems or extricate themselves from sticky situations? If he asks, I’d be happy to remind him.
The real problem here is that Madigan doesn’t seem to realize that the war is over. His former enemies — Blagojevich and former Senate president Emil Jones — are gone. The new Senate President is the godfather of Madigan’s only son. The new governor is so eager to avoid Blagojevich’s many mistakes that he appears to be more than willing to bow to Madigan’s power. Last year’s election resulted in Madigan controlling 71 seats, just one short of a super-majority, so the Republicans have been thoroughly defeated.
Yet, Madigan continues to punish everyone he believes are his enemies. House Democrats who allied themselves with Blagojevich have been whacked but good. And the pathetically powerless Republicans who dared defy Madigan last year by working with Blagojevich on the capital construction plan are being stomped at almost every turn.
Blagojevich’s horrid legacy is being purged in the Senate. Democrats and Republicans are attempting to work with each other for the first time in years. Senate President John Cullerton even set up a bipartisan dinner event for Senators and their spouses. And he has loosened his office’s stranglehold on power.
But Blagojevich’s ghost reigns supreme in the House. It’s like he never left.