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Washington
AP
House races to oust Trump
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House rushed ahead Tuesday toward impeaching President Donald Trump for the deadly Capitol attack, taking time only to try to persuade his vice president to push him out first. Trump showed no remorse, blaming impeachment itself for the "tremendous anger" in America.

Already scheduled to leave office next week, Trump is on the verge of becoming the only president in history to be twice impeached. His incendiary rhetoric at a rally ahead of the Capitol uprising is now in the impeachment charge against him, even as the falsehoods he spread about election fraud are still being championed by some Republicans.

The House voted Tuesday night on a resolution urging Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump with a Cabinet vote and “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”

Pence said he would not do so in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

He said that it would not be in the best interest of the nation or consistent with the Constitution and that it was "time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden."

With Pence's agreement to invoke the 25th Amendment ruled out, the House will move swiftly to impeachment on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, four Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House GOP leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced they would vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday, cleaving the Republican leadership, and the party itself.

"The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack," said Cheney in a statement. "There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution."

The New York Times reported Tuesday that influential Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thinks Trump committed an impeachable offense and is glad Democrats are moving against him.

As lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol for the first time since the bloody siege, they were bracing for more violence ahead of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, Jan. 20.

"All of us have to do some soul searching," said Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, imploring other Republicans to join.

Trump, meanwhile, warned the lawmakers off impeachment and suggested it was the drive to oust him that was dividing the country.

"To continue on this path, I think it's causing tremendous danger to our country, and it's causing tremendous anger," Trump said.

In his first remarks to reporters since last week's violence, the outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, "I want no violence."

Trump faces a single charge — "incitement of insurrection" — in the impeachment resolution after the most serious and deadly domestic incursion at the Capitol in the nation's history.

A handful of other House Republicans could join in the impeachment vote, but it's not clear there would be a two-thirds vote needed to convict from the narrowly divided Senate, though some Republicans say it's time for Trump to resign.

The unprecedented events, with just over a week remaining in Trump's term, are unfolding in a nation bracing for more unrest. The FBI has warned ominously of potential armed protests in Washington and many states by Trump loyalists ahead of Biden's inauguration and Capitol Police warned lawmakers to be on alert. The inauguration ceremony on the west steps of the Capitol will be off limits to the public.

Lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about it.

A Capitol police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police shot a woman during the violence. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

In the Senate, Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania joined GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska over the weekend in calling for Trump to "go away as soon as possible."

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, did not go that far, but on Tuesday called on Trump to address the nation and explicitly urge his supporters to refrain from further violence. If not, he said, Trump "will bear responsibility."

No member of the Cabinet has publicly called for Trump to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment.

Biden has said it's important to ensure that the "folks who engaged in sedition and threatening the lives, defacing public property, caused great damage — that they be held accountable."

Fending off concerns that an impeachment trial would bog down Biden's first days in office, the president-elect encouraged senators to divide their time between taking taking up his priorities of confirming his nominees and approving COVID relief while also conducting the trial.


Local
alert featured
Carbondale Best Buy to close
  • Updated

CARBONDALE — As Best Buy is set to close its Carbondale location, city officials are trying to rethink what filling spaces left by retail giants will look like.

“Macy’s, JCPenney, now Best Buy,” Steve Mitchell said, recalling the major retailers who have left the Carbondale market in the last year. Mitchell is the economic development director for the city of Carbondale. 

While Mitchell said he has little information about Best Buy's closure, he said he did hear from a corporate representative with the company, who explained the store was one of the company's smaller locations — it has only 15 full-time employees, Mitchell said — and that economic indicators for national retailers, even prior to the pandemic, led to the decision to close. Mitchell said the employees were given an option to transfer to other locations within the company. The closest stores are in Cape Girardeau and Paducah.

As for what’s next for the space, Mitchell said he’s not sure.

“No one’s been knocking down my door just yet,” Mitchell said of interest in the property.

As economic development director, Mitchell works with business owners, developers and entrepreneurs to find locations within the city to build a business, and also works to help find ways the city can help business move to town. He said the news is so fresh, he’s not surprised there’s not been any interest so far. Mitchell also pointed out that developers usually go to property managers for information about renting specific spaces. In the case of the Best Buy space, that's national management firm DLC Management.

Representatives from DLC could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

It remains uncertain what can or will fill the big holes in Carbondale’s retail landscape.

“I think the short term is still pretty cloudy,” Mitchell said of what Carbondale’s business landscape will look like.

“The number of retailers that are filling in those types of spaces are getting fewer and fewer and fewer,” Mitchell said. And, as for what has been the culprit for so many big businesses closing, Mitchell pointed to online retail as the biggest factor, followed certainly by the challenges imposed by COVID-19 restrictions.

There may be some silver lining to the departure of some big box stores from the city: The spaces could open opportunities for others.

“Longer term what we may see are commercial property values declining, which is a negative, but the positive spin for that is it may open up opportunities for businesses that (couldn’t afford retail space before),” he said.

Mitchell pointed to recent developments in town to be excited about, though. Mitchell listed two new Carbondale businesses, Harrold's Chicken and Chalky's Billiards, as examples.


Local
editor's pick top story
Southern Illinois groups receive state grants for programs that work toward racial healing
  • Updated

Several Southern Illinois organizations have received Healing Illinois grants as part of a state program to work toward racial healing.

Healing Illinois is a racial healing initiative of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust. The program is designed to distribute $4.5 million grants to organizations across the state to begin or continue the work of racial healing.

Southern Illinois Community Foundation was awarded $118,650. CEO Byram Fager said the foundation will award small grants to other organizations, as well as to continue its Community Conversations series.

When Illinois Department of Human Services announced the round of Healing Illinois grants, Fager thought many small charitable organizations in the region would not be able to meet the program requirements. He approached the program sponsors, IDHS and the Chicago Trust, and they decided to ask SICF to help by distributing smaller grants to organizations within Southern Illinois.

The majority of the group’s award will fund these smaller grants.

A small portion of the funding for SICF will be used to continue its Community Conversations. Fager said at least three more panel discussions are planned to discuss Black Lives Matter and other racial issues. The first discussions were in Marion and Murphysboro, so he expects the next conversations to be in Carbondale and other cities.

To apply for a grant, visit sicf.org and click on the Receive button, then Healing Illinois for more information and to apply.

More information is available at sicf.org or by emailing Fager at byrum@sicf.org or Reba Ourun at reba@sicf.org.

A Gift Of Love Charity Inc. was awarded $8,000 for a project to create a community mural with the theme of healing racial inequities and spark conversation among unlikely friends.

Chastity Mays, assistant director of the charity, said they are asking people in the area to share their stories of racism, then add to the mural. Project Human X will partner with A Gift of Love to create the mural and individual art.

Those who wish to participate should register to share their stories because spots are limited. Suggested topics include racism in education, mass incarceration, racism as mental illness, racial images in religion and racism in the family. 

Stories will be filmed each Saturday in February and on March 6. An unveiling of the mural is planned for March 13.

“By mid-April, we expect to show the documentary, and Carbondale Public Library is on board to do that with us,” Mays said.

For additional information, call 618-525-2676 or email giftoflovecharity@live.com.

The Women’s Center Inc. will receive $25,000 to host activities to address the long history of racial disparities in Southern Illinois.

Nancy Maxwell of The Women’s Center said the funding will be used for a variety of activities through March, including virtual conferences, Love Train caravans, history programs, summits, discussions, candidate forums and more.

The next event will be a Martin Luther King Love Train, which starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Bonan Business Center in Harrisburg. The caravan will travel from Harrisburg to Ray Fosse Park in Marion and the University Mall in Carbondale before arriving at its final stop, the soccer fields in Murphysboro.

Markers to decorate cars and water and snacks will be provided. A short program is planned at the Murphysboro stop, where there is plenty of room for social distancing. Cars may join at any stop.

“This (an earlier caravan) was one of my favorite events of the year. I just loved it,” Maxwell said.

A Black Health Matters town hall is scheduled for Jan. 21. February programs will include the History of African American Music and the History of Cornrows.

Maxwell said registration for the events will be available on Carbondale Public Library’s website, carbondalepubliclibrary.org.

John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchell Foundation was awarded $6,000 for My House!, a collaborative project to develop a district-wide curriculum for Mount Vernon School District 80 to address racial justice and social equity in a unique way that encourages local school children (and peripheral participants) to celebrate their differences.


Govt-and-politics
Illinois Republican leaders react as lame duck session nears end
  • Updated

SPRINGFIELD — Republican leadership offered harsh criticisms for their Democratic counterparts Tuesday as the Illinois General Assembly neared the end of its lame duck session.

In a virtual news conference Tuesday, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, and Senate Republican Leader-designate Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods, accused embattled House Speaker Michael Madigan of pushing legislation through without sufficient input during the shortened session.

Debate of an economic equity bill backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus was cut off after about 45 minutes Monday night, and several major pieces of legislation — including a sweeping criminal justice overhaul — were expected to be heard well into the night Tuesday.

Durkin also criticized House Democratic leadership for imposing strict rules on public access to the Bank of Springfield Center, where the Illinois House of Representatives has been conducting legislative session since Friday.

Currently, no members of the public are allowed to view House or Senate proceedings in person, and a limited number of media are allowed into the chambers to cover legislative action at any given time.

“It’s very unfortunate that the lack of accessibility of not just the media but also the general public is taking place, and it goes against our democracy,” Durkin said.

Witnesses at public committee hearings are also limited and have been giving testimony remotely in the House. While the changes are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Durkin suggested House leadership has other reasons for the strict rules.

“It’s because the majority party is fractured and wants to keep things as under the rug as possible,” Durkin said.

Durkin’s comments come as House Democrats struggle to rally around a single candidate for speaker of the next General Assembly, which begins Wednesday.

Madigan, who has been speaker for all but two years since 1983, suspended but did not withdraw his candidacy Monday, while Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, declared he would also be seeking the speaker’s gavel.

Welch joined Democrats Ann Williams of Chicago and Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego as the declared candidates in the race, although reports surfaced that Kifowit had dropped out of the race Tuesday.

A representative needs 60 votes in order to be named speaker, a level of support no candidate appeared to have Tuesday, although private wrangling of support was ongoing. There are 73 Democrats and 45 Republicans that will be seated in the next General Assembly.

Durkin put to rest rumors that a Democrat may receive Republican support in a bid to unseat Madigan, noting he expects to receive all 45 GOP votes for speaker. An official vote is scheduled to take place when the new General Assembly is sworn in Wednesday.

Durkin said that although Madigan’s next term is uncertain, he accused the speaker of exercising his power to steer legislation before the end of the lame duck session.

“What we’re experiencing in the house is that Democrats are willing to do anything because Madigan is willing to do anything for them,” Durkin said. “And if that means remaining in power or hand-picking his successor, that’s more important to him than the fiscal and ethical integrity of the state.”

Durkin said a Black Caucus-backed bill affecting the state’s procurement code was an example of Democratic leadership passing items through without sufficient input. He said the bill, which creates additional diversity requirements for state contracts, has broad implications on the cost of governance, but Democrats bypassed a Republican request for research on the fiscal impacts.

Durkin also criticized the Democrats’ rush to pass the bill language before new lawmakers are seated and when several current lawmakers will no longer be answerable to voters.

“These bills have been around in some format for a while, but the fact is that they were all amended in the past 24 hours without any input from Republicans, our staff, or anybody who’s going to be affected by them,” Durkin said

“They don’t want us to know, they don’t want the public to know, of what the cost will be upon the state of Illinois,” he added.

McConchie echoed Durkin’s calls for a more deliberative approach to legislation.

“We’re not doing this in a manner that actually allows for substantive, full debate that a democracy really deserves,” McConchie said.

“These life-changing decisions about the future of our state should not be made at the 11th hour without robust public input,” he added.

Durkin also criticized Welch as Madigan’s “hand-picked” successor, although Madigan’s spokesman said he would not be making an endorsement in the race.

Welch chaired the special investigative committee which looked into Madigan’s alleged involvement in a bribery scheme with utility giant Commonwealth Edison. The committee disbanded in mid-December after meeting just three times in four months. Madigan has not been charged with wrongdoing and denies guilt.

“I consider Chris Welch an extension of Mike Madigan, and we’ve got to break from the past,” Durkin said.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.


State-and-regional
Permanent vote-by-mail expansion moves to Illinois House floor
  • Updated

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House Executive Committee advanced an election bill that would make permanent some of the expansions to mail-in voting that were passed for the 2020 general election.

The bill would require election authorities to accept mail-in ballots that were submitted without sufficient postage and allow election authorities to set up collection sites or drop-boxes that accept ballots without postage.

Lawmakers approved those measures last spring for the 2020 election in order to accommodate concerns about voting in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic. But those earlier expansions of mail-in voting expired on Jan. 1.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, said those vote-by-mail provisions were successful in the 2020 general election and should continue in the upcoming consolidated elections. The consolidated primary election is scheduled for Feb. 23.

“This will be permanent because our election authorities who chose to use it found it was successful,” Stuart said.

The bill would also allow local election authorities to continue the use of curbside voting during early voting or on Election Day.

It would not require local election offices to mail or email vote-by-mail ballot applications to voters who cast a ballot in previous elections. This measure was included in the previous vote-by-mail law for the 2020 general election but will not be extended.

In order for a ballot returned to a drop-box to be counted in an election, it must be returned before voting closes on Election Day.

Some Republicans on the House Executive Committee said the bill’s requirement that the state Board of Elections provide guidance, rather than rules, for securing collection sites does not go far enough to provide security.

Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, who raised similar concerns about the previous vote-by-mail bill, said the bill should require the ISBE to create rules for drop-box security.

“I think this is important for election integrity, and for people to know that in this state when they drop off the ballot, that nothing is going to happen. And I think we as the Legislature need to give an executive branch agency with oversight of our elections much more clarification as to how these boxes should be built,” Butler said.

The bill, Senate Bill 145, moved to the full House floor, with Democratic committee members voting in favor and Republican members voting against it.


Photos: The career of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

PHOTOS: The career of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

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