Speak up or step down? Republicans call on Pritzker to demand Madigan take the heat or take a hike

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who filed the petition that created the special investigative committee, said the stalling of its work until after the election was chair Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch attempting to take a dive for Madigan.

SHARE Speak up or step down? Republicans call on Pritzker to demand Madigan take the heat or take a hike
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, last year.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, left, in 2018; Gov. J.B. Pritzker, right, in July.

Rich Hein, Pat Nabong/Sun-Times files

Charging that Democrats “pulled the plug” on the investigation of Mike Madigan for political motives, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on Thursday called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other state Democrats to “demand answers from the speaker or demand his resignation.”

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, the Democrat leading the panel looking into Madigan’s dealings with ComEd, fired back that Durkin is the one who must “put the political performances aside and let our investigation take its course.”

Durkin started the latest verbal volley over the simmering legislative probe with a news conference responding to Welch’s decision two days earlier to delay any further hearings in the probe until after the Nov. 3 election.

The Republican leader from Western Springs, who filed the petition that created the special investigative committee, said the stalling of its work until after the election amounted to Welch attempting to take a dive for Madigan.

“After trying to find every possible roadblock to delay this committee, be it by repeatedly misrepresenting the U.S. Attorney’s Office position and refusing to discuss subpoenaed testimony … Chairman Welch conveniently realized that he was out of excuses and pulled the plug,” Durkin said.

Then House Speaker Mike Madigan, left, in July; Future Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, right, in September.

House Speaker Mike Madigan, left, in July; State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, right, last month.

Neal Earley/Sun-Times; Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP

The Republican leader said it’s time for Pritzker to step in.

“The governor is obviously laser focused on promoting his graduated tax amendment, which is an amendment that will give Springfield politicians like Mike Madigan the unilateral authority to raise taxes at any time on any income bracket,” Durkin said. “How can you, Gov. Pritzker and members of the General Assembly, trust the motivations of speaker Madigan with any legislation in the future based on what we know of this scandal?

“Gov. Pritzker be a leader — take charge and hold those in your party accountable, demand answers from the speaker or demand his resignation.”

Welch said it’s “disappointing” to see Durkin “show such little regard for the serious work” of the committee.

“While Leader Durkin grandstands to prop up his politically vulnerable members, the committee is taking productive steps in the process he initiated,” the Hillside Democrat said in a statement.

“From the breathless demands that legislators join his rush to judgment to the coordinated attacks launched by his campaign operation, Leader Durkin’s only goal is political theater,” Welch said. “I urge Leader Durkin to put the political performances aside and let our investigation take its course.”

Welch said counsel representing the Democrats and Republicans on the committee are working with ComEd to secure the documents both sides have requested. Representatives for the utility company “acknowledged in these conversations, a comprehensive response requires diligence and thoroughness.”

State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, left; state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, center; state Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, right.

State Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, left, and fellow GOP committee members, state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, center; state Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, right.

Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register via AP

Durkin also balked at Welch’s claims that the three Republicans on the committee — two of whom are considered top Democratic targets in November — had their own political motives. The GOP leader called the assertion “insulting” and said the “only thing that is political is Rep. Welch’s covering up of the corruption in his own party before an election.”

Durkin’s demand comes after Welch issued a statement Tuesday saying he wouldn’t call the committee to meet again until Nov. 5 to shed “the backdrop of a political campaign.”

The move earned Welch the nickname “Chairman Squelch” from panel member state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, who said “this is not how a professional runs an investigation. This is how a political professional covers up the truth and crushes an investigation.”

The committee has met twice since August, when Republicans petitioned to create the special investigative panel to look into whether the powerful Southwest Side Democrat had a hand in the alleged ComEd bribery scheme.

Federal prosecutors in July revealed ComEd had agreed to pay a $200 million fine after admitting some company officials had plotted over the years to pay a total $1.3 million to Madigan associates for doing little or no work in an effort to ensure the speaker’s support.

Madigan has not been charged with a crime, and has maintained that he’s “never made legislative decisions with improper motives.”

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