Senators Insist that Blagojevich Resign

WASHINGTON, December 10 - U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders of Vermont today called for the resignation of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich one day after he was arrested and accused of putting President-elect Barack Obama's former United States Senate seat up for sale.

The Vermont senators signed a letter also warning Blagojevich not to exercise his power to name Obama's Senate successor, saying that could trigger a provision in the U.S. Constitution that lets the Senate refuse to seat a member.

The senators' letter to Blagojevich says:

"We write to insist that you step down as governor of Illinois and under no circumstance make an appointment to fill the vacant Illinois Senate seat. In light of your arrest yesterday on alleged federal corruption charges related to that Senate seat, any appointment by you would raise serious questions.

"It is within the authority of the Illinois legislature to remove your power to make this appointment by providing for a special election. But a decision by you to resign or to step aside under Article V of the Illinois Constitution would be the most expeditious way for a new Senator to be chosen and seated in a manner that would earn the confidence of the people of Illinois and all Americans. We consider it imperative that a new senator be seated as soon as possible so that Illinois is fully represented in the Senate as the important work of the 111th Congress moves forward.

"Please understand that should you decide to ignore the request of the Senate Democratic Caucus and make an appointment we would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated.

"We do not prejudge the outcome of the criminal charges against you or question your constitutional right to contest those charges. But for the good of the Senate and our nation, we implore you refrain from making an appointment to the Senate," the letter concluded.