Ill. House speaker launches impeachment panel
By CHRISTOPHER WILLS, Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The speaker of the Illinois House is taking the first step toward possibly impeaching embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Speaker Michael Madigan announced Monday that he's appointing a special committee to review the case and recommend whether Blagojevich should be impeached.

Madigan says the committee will work every day except holidays.

"We're going to proceed with all due speed, but we're going to make sure that what we do is done correctly," the Chicago Democrat said.

Once the committee makes a recommendation, the full House will decide whether to file impeachment charges against the governor. The Senate ultimately would rule on them.

Blagojevich was arrested last week on federal corruption charges, including trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Madigan said his staff has been reviewing the legal possibilities for impeachment for about a year. He cautioned that doesn't mean the House will be able to reach a quick decision.

Madigan did not join the chorus of officials calling for Blagojevich's resignation or say whether he thinks the governor should be impeached, saying he should remain neutral because he would preside over any impeachment debate.

But he did not back away from his role as one of the governor's harshest critics, saying he's not surprised by the federal allegations. Madigan, who once co-chaired Blagojevich's re-election campaign, often has refused to meet with Blagojevich or return his phone calls in recent months.

"I've had a chance to get to know Mr. Blagojevich over six years, so I was not surprised," Madigan said. "In light of what we've all seen ... how can anyone be surprised?" ... s_governor