This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," December 16, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
HEATHER NAUERT, HOST: Now, by law, the governor still has the power to appoint a new senator. My next guest says that Rod Blagojevich can no longer make an appointment without a cloud hanging over his choice. Illinois state senator, Dale Righter, who's also an attorney and a Republican. He joins me now.
Welcome, sir. So, one thing that's an important.
DALE RIGHTER (R), ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: Heather, thanks for having me.
NAUERT: Thank you. Is that governor wants to have due process, of course, he is not been convicted of anything. Will the state legislators assure that there is due process seen here?
RIGHTER: Well, I think they will work very hard, Heather, to see that come about. I mean, you're right. The governor was arrested a week ago. There are very serious charges filed against the governor but it's our job to make sure and move forward in a deliberative fashion and make sure that the governor's afforded his due process rights, remembering that while we are in this position, there is no real work of state government moving forward.
I mean, the last six years, you've seen one political party, one political machine rule here. We need to get ourselves out of that. We need to work out of that. This impeachment process, unfortunately, is going to be part of that process.
NAUERT: Well, I understand this impeachment, if does end up happening, could take quite some time. It could take a month or so.
RIGHTER: Well, it could. We really don't have a precedent here in Illinois to go by, Heather, although, I think the House can probably do its work pretty quickly. I think in the Senate, depending on the kind of defense the governor might put on, the kind of evidence that's put on by the prosecutors that come over from the House, it could be a rather lengthy process.
Myself, most of the other members of the general assembly have called upon the governor to do the right thing, and that is to resign. As Carl said a minute ago, most members of the general assembly believe that if the governor resigns, we can move on with doing the business of the people that hasn't been done much in the last several years, and move on.
NAUERT: All right. Of course, he's still showing up for work everyday, signing bills into law and all of that, but as I understand it, your House speaker last night refused to strip the governor of its powers to make an appointment for that vacant Senate seat. So, what happened? Why did they refuse to strip his powers then?
RIGHTER: Well, that's a great question, Heather, and a question we don't have the answer to. The Democrats and the general assembly who have really worked with this governor hand in hand for the last six years and are now working overtime to demonstrate that they are opposed to the governor, had a prime opportunity yesterday and then again today in the Senate to strip the governor of his power, to appoint Illinois' next U.S. senator.
Everyone recognizes that that's the right thing to do. Barack Obama, the president-elect, from Illinois, recognizes that's the right thing to do. Dick Durbin from Illinois, a U.S. senator, agrees that's the right thing to do. But for some reason, the general assembly's Democrats can't do that.
NAUERT: So, what happens next? He's not been stripped of his power. So, just briefly, what could possibly happen? Can he actually go ahead and continue making or try to make an appointment?
RIGHTER: He could make an appointment. That's the position that the majority party here in Illinois, the Democrats, have left us in. Now, we do believe that the U.S. Senate might refuse to actually seat that appointee, but it's unfortunate that we would even be in this position in the first place, Heather. We should have done the right thing here in the last two days and strip the governor of this authority.
NAUERT: Yes, and that's something that the Senate leadership in Washington had said before, that they would look at not seating that person if that person were appointed.
Now, there's another thing being talked about a lot, that's the special election. Your state is in some financial difficulty right now. There are estimates that a special election could cost between $30 million and $50 million. So, what on earth can you do? Where do you get the money? The state says it doesn't have the money. Is this going to happen?
RIGHTER: Well, Heather, what we can do is we can put the special election, primary and general, on the same days as the municipal elections here in Illinois and dramatically reduce that cost. So, I understand, the opponents of a special election, remarkably, the people who are running this building don't want the people of Illinois to have a voice and who the new U.S. senator will be. Our advertising, they're putting out that figure.
But the bottom line is that if we put those elections on election dates that are already set in Illinois law, we can reduce that cost dramatically and give the people a say in who the next U.S. senator be. That's the right way to go.
NAUERT: All right. So, ballpark, what are you looking at there? The estimates were $30 million to $50 million. You say you could reduce those costs. What do you think it would cost?
RIGHTER: Well, I don't know exactly what the figure is, but the cost would be reduced dramatically, far less than half of the numbers that are being floated by some of the opponents, to actually letting the people choose our next U.S. senator here.
NAUERT: All right. So, we are going to have to leave it there. Illinois, like a lot of other states, in financial trouble right now. Illinois is looking up to $2 billion deficit for the year 2009. Lots of states, of course, are coming to Washington, looking for some money. So, you guys have some tough work ahead of you, certainly.
Senator Dale Righter, a Republican of Illinois, thank you so much for joining us. We sure appreciate it.
RIGHTER: Heather, thanks for having me.
NAUERT: Thank you.
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