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Madigan, Cullerton hold power to override Rauner vetoes — for now

Illinois will be getting a Republican governor in Bruce Rauner come January. But Democrats — at least for now — have kept their veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate, which could diminish Rauner’s political muscle.

Just as they did two years ago, Democrats won 71 seats in the House, according to vote tallies compiled Wednesday by the Associated Press. But in one of those races, incumbent Rep. Kate Cloonen, D-Kankakee, defeated Republican Glenn Nixon by just 12 votes, leaving open the possibility that the counting of provisional and late-absentee ballots might turn the table. Two other Democratic state representatives won by margins of just a few hundred votes.  

So, until further notice, House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago, will continue to have the 71 Democratic members he needs to override any veto that Rauner might make of legislation sent to the governor’s desk. If Madigan loses just one of those seats, he would lose the veto-proof margin, as a three-fifths supermajority is required in both chambers to override a governor’s veto. 

Republicans picked up one seat in the Senate, but that wasn’t nearly enough to take away the veto-proof majority built by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. There are still 39 Democratic state senators — three more than the 36 needed to give Cullerton the veto-proof margin.

The supermajorities could set up some interesting political maneuvering in the Capitol. Rauner would have to find Democratic legislators willing to defy Madigan and Cullerton to allow his vetoes to stand — and that’s assuming all Republican lawmakers are on board with his plans.

Rauner, seemingly aware of this, was striking a bipartisan tone early on in his victory speech.

“Just a few minutes ago, I placed two very important phone calls,” Rauner said. “I called Speaker Madigan. I called President Cullerton and I said to them: This is an opportunity for us to work together. This is an opportunity to work together on a bipartisan basis, to solve the problems, the challenges facing families in Illinois.”