SPRINGFIELD — When it comes to ethics reform, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan said Wednesday that Republicans should start in Washington, not Springfield.
“I would suggest that the Illinois Republicans who want to pursue ethics reform go out to Washington, follow up on President Trump’s promise to drain the swamp,” Madigan said. “They can begin with Trump, the Attorney General [William Barr], [Former National Security Advisor] Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and others.”
The Southwest Side Democrat appeared in Springfield Wednesday in his role as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party to help put together the slate of electors who will meet as part of the Electoral College in December if Joe Biden wins Illinois in the November election. Madigan also weighed in on the presidential election and Biden’s potential pick for vice president.
But the state House speaker would not say whether he would call for a return to session to work on ethics reforms or legislation to address racial inequities.
Firing back at Republicans who blamed him for the Legislature not passing any ethics reform legislation in the brief session held in May, Madigan told reporters that Illinois Republicans should “focus their attention” on President Donald J. Trump before they put the onus on him.
Madigan’s comments come a day after Illinois Republicans pressed the Southwest Side Democrat to pass ethics reform and blamed him and the Democratic Party for the state’s “corruption and the ethics crisis in the Legislature.”
“I’m here to say, myself and my caucus will not let anyone forget about the crisis of confidence and corruption that persist in Springfield under the Democrat majority control,” House GOP Leader Jim Durkin said Tuesday.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ethics reform was a top issue in Illinois with a number of current or former Democratic legislators either facing federal corruption charges or linked to the ongoing investigation. But then the coronavirus shortened the spring session and knocked ethics reform off the front burner.
During the session that stretched over three days in May, lawmakers mostly voted on bills related to the state’s effort to deal with the public and economic crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic. Durkin said Madigan refused to take ethics reform seriously, saying the speaker excluded it from the list of bills to be voted on during the truncated session.
Durkin said Tuesday “I can’t recall” whether he pushed Madigan to put ethics reform on the agenda for the May session.
On Wednesday, Madigan contended that ethics reform “was on the table” during the session and will be in the future.
“It was on the table. It was under discussion. It continues to be under discussion. It will be under discussion when we reconvene whenever we’re able to do that,” Madigan told reporters.
Now with the legislative session over, many Democrats are turning their attention to social justice reform, the ongoing fight against COVID-19 or the presidential election, especially with U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., under consideration as a potential vice presidential pick for Biden.
By voice vote, Democrats at Wednesday’s meeting endorsed Duckworth for the No. 2 spot on the ticket “at the urging of Sen. Dick Durbin,” according to a party statement.
With many pushing Biden to select a Black woman as his running mate, Madigan told reporters the decision will ultimately be up to Biden, adding “certainly he should consider African-American women”
Due to concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Democratic National Committee has told delegates not to travel to Milwaukee for the party’s nomination of Biden in August, urging them to “plan to conduct their official convention business remotely.”
Madigan, who led the meeting in Springfield on Wednesday, said the presidential election is “an extremely critical election for the entire country.”
“We’ve been adrift for four years going from one crisis to another,” Madigan said.
In the crisis that followed the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, three members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus — Democratic state Representatives Kam Buckner, Curtis Tarver and Lamont Robinson — called on Madigan and state Senate President Don Harmon to call a special legislative session to address “the rebuilding of our communities and the pursuit of justice and equity.”
Madigan said he wasn’t ready to bring the Legislature back to Springfield, saying his caucus is still working on those bills internally.
“Once we come to some finality in terms of our discussion with the Illinois House Democratic Caucus then we’re going to move onto the remainder of the caucus,” Madigan said.