Blagojevich Impeachment May Take Months

Scandal-plagued Rod Blagojevich could become the state's first governor to be impeached after an Illinois House committee launched a probe Tuesday to determine whether to recommend a state Senate trial to determine Blagojevich's ouster.

The state House voted unanimously Monday to create the panel of 12 Democrats and nine Republicans but a quick resolution is unlikely.

The committee is expected to hold several weeks of hearings to determine whether impeachment is the best approach against the governor, who was arrested one week ago on federal corruption charges.

The committee, which could work through the holiday season, has the power to issue subpoenas and compel witnesses to testify. The committee is seeking information from the U.S. attorney's office as well as information gained from other parts of the federal investigation.

House Speaker Michael Madigan told FOX News that it is unclear how long the process will take but added that Blagojevich's defense attorney, Ed Genson, will appear before the committee on Wednesday.

"That taken alone tells us the process will be longer than we thought at the beginning of this," he said, adding that he expects Jensen to challenge the committee's efforts by presenting his own evidence and bringing in his own witnesses.

It is unknown whether Blagojevich will appear before the committee, said Madigan, a Chicago Democrat and former co-chairman of Blagojevich's re-election campaign, who has become one of the governor's fiercest critics.

Madigan, the father of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who last week asked the state Supreme Court to declare Blagojevich unfit for office, has said the allegations include the federal criminal charges, as well as abuse of power, taking action without legal authority and ignoring state laws.

Madigan and other lawmakers have pushed for a fast resolution but Blagojevich's legal team could lengthen the process by questioning witnesses and presenting evidence.

On Tuesday, the committee discussed how it will operate and reviewed the claims against Blagojevich, including attempts to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.

"We have a state in crisis that cannot pay its bill and if the governor would do the right thing and resign then the action of this committee would be unnecessary," said Republican state lawmaker Suzanne Bassi, who is a member of the committee.

"Unfortunately, unless he does the right thing and resigns, we need to move forward as rapidly as possible," she said.

Madigan said the committee has reached out to the U.S. attorney's office to gain access to the evidence against Blagojevich but added that lawmakers can move forward with impeachment without the evidence because a different standard is applied.

"We're prepared to move forward with what's available and remember it's not a criminal standard," he said.

The state constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor. If the committee recommends impeachment, then the full House would decide whether to file charges against the governor.

If the House votes to impeach Blagojevich, then the Senate would hold hearings and ultimately make a ruling. The chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court would preside over the chamber.

If lawmakers ousted Blagojevich from office or if he decided to resign, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would become the new governor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.