In the end, it wasn’t even close.
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.
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.
This is the right outcome but the wrong process. While impeachment is not a criminal trial and the Illinois House can, in practice, impeach for whatever it wants, the intent was that it be reserved for criminal conduct. While I have little doubt that Blagojevich committed crimes, he was impeached for unpopular policies. That’s a decidedly bad precedent.