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Lawmakers at Odds Over How to Fill Obama's Senate Seat

Obama in Chicago

Federal and Illinois lawmakers appear to be at odds over how to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy left by Barack Obama, after Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday for allegedly trying to auction off Obama's seat.

State politicians are hammering out legislation that would call for a special election to fill the vacancy and undercut the governor's power to appoint the replacement. 

But all 50 members of the U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus on Wednesday released a letter calling on Blagojevich to step down without making any appointments, suggesting that instead of calling a special election the legislature could allow the lieutenant governor to make the appointment. 

Such a move would eliminate the risk, at least in the near term, of a Republican gaining the seat. 

Republicans and Democrats alike are calling for the governor to resign, and President-elect Obama joined the chorus Wednesday. But so far, Illinois lawmakers say they see no signs that Blagojevich will step aside and hand his appointment powers to the lieutenant governor. 

"Everything we've seen indicates that that's not contemplated," said Steve Brown, spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. He told FOXNews.com that lawmakers began drafting legislation Tuesday to set up a special election, and that the bill could pass the state House and Senate by early next week. The House is expected to convene Monday. 

Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, who called the charges against Blagojevich shocking, said he would soon call his chamber into session to pass a bill to establish a special election to fill Obama's seat. 

Brown said the special election would cost "millions of dollars," but is "unavoidable given this guy's conduct." 

"Illinois ought to have two senators," he said. "I haven't heard anybody in Illinois say it's not a good idea." 

Officials say they are poised to intervene if Blagojevich tries to fill Obama's seat in the interim. 

State Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that process is "obviously tainted," and if the governor attempts to exercise his appointment powers, the U.S. Senate could deny the appointee or the Illinois secretary of state could opt not to recognize his choice. Indeed, the U.S. senators' letter Wednesday threatened to subject anybody Blagojevich appoints to review. 

Madigan said if Blagojevich appointed himself, she would go to court to have the decision "voided." 

"There are a number of mechanisms that would prevent him potentially from having that appointment actually becoming U.S. senator," Madigan told FOX News. "Obviously the hope is that the governor would recognize that he needs to move aside. He needs to resign. He is incapable of governing. But at this point he shows no interest in resigning." 

One of three Illinois deputy governors, Bob Greenley, submitted his resignation Wednesday, according to the governor's press office. 

Madigan talked up the possibility of a special election. 

Tuesday's arrest of Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, could shake up the  roster of potential candidates being considered for Obama's vacant seat, especially if they are forced to run in a special election. Some candidates might not want to run at all, given allegations of impropriety surrounding Blagojevich's alleged "pay-to-play" schemes. 

Madigan, who told FOX News that she was the individual identified as Senate Candidate 2 in the FBI's complaint, said she was not interested in the Senate job and had not been in touch with anyone in the governor's office about the opening. 

Rather, she expressed interest in the suddenly vulnerable governor's job, saying she was "seriously considering" a run. 

A spokeswoman for Tammy Duckworth, head of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs and another talked-about candidate, said in an e-mail that Duckworth had not discussed the Senate seat with the governor. 

"She is extremely focused on her job working for the state's veterans. She will continue her mission to improve the lives of Illinois' veterans and their families," spokeswoman Jessica Woodward said. 

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. on Wednesday, though, seemed to stand by his qualifications and interest in the job. Jackson met with Blagojevich on Monday about the seat, before the governor's arrest. 

But after Jackson's lawyer confirmed that Jackson was probably the individual identified as Senate Candidate 5 in the FBI complaint, Jackson insisted he was not involved in any wrongdoing. 

The complaint alleges that Blagojevich said he was giving Senate Candidate 5 "greater consideration" in part because that individual would raise money for him, and potentially even give the governor money "up front." 

Jackson said he's been assured by federal prosecutors that he's not a target of their investigation. 

One source also told FOX News over the weekend that Jones had emerged as the front-runner for the post. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis was frequently mentioned as well. According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, Blagojevich even referred to Davis twice at a recent event as "Senator Davis." 

Jones' and Davis' interest in the job is unclear at this point. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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