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Blagojevich Addresses Reporters

CQ Transcripts Wire
Friday, January 9, 2009 3:36 PM

ILLINOIS GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D): Thank you for being here. I won't be that long.

Let me say, to begin with, that the house's action today was, of course, not a surprise. It was a foregone conclusion.

In fact, what the House did today, they've been talking about doing for the last couple of years. In fact, the first discussion of doing what they did today, they started talking about back in the summer of 2007, when they failed to pass a budget and we were facing a government shutdown and I was calling the House into special session to try to work to get a budget so we can keep government operating.

So this is not something that came as a complete surprise to me. It happened kind of fast. But, again, kind of expected, and part of the process that has essentially been the dynamic in Illinois since I was reelected governor in November of 2006.

From the very moment of my reelection, I've been engaged in a struggle with the House to try to get things done for people. I've worked very hard, and continue to keep pushing and prodding the House to pass a capital construction program, a public works program, a jobs program, one that would create anywhere from 500,000 to 750,000 jobs. The House has stood in the way of letting that happen.

From the moment I was reelected governor, I wanted to build on the historic progress we made in Illinois by giving all of our kids access to health care, and giving more adults access to health care than any other state in America, by providing more health care to those remaining who couldn't afford to see the doctor.

BLAGOJEVICH: In my view, those of us who make the rules ought to be able to follow a simple lesson that I was taught to believe in in Sunday school called the Golden Rule: that you should do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And for those of use who make the rules, and we can provide health care to ourselves and our families, then we should be able to provide the same kind of health care to the rest of the citizens who hired us to represent them.

And so, from the moment of my reelection, I've been pushing and prodding the house to expand health care. And unfortunately, they've consistently stood in the way of those expansions.

Since my reelection in November of 2006, I've pushed and prodded the house for real and meaningful property tax relief for homeowners here in Cook County. The House stood in the way of that. In fact, they passed a law that actually is taking property tax relief away from homeowners in Cook County.

I've pushed and prodded the system and tried to encourage the House to pass an expansion of the Illinois breast and cervical cancer programs so that the 261,000 uninsured women in Illinois can have the same access to routine mammograms and pap smears, breast and cervical cancer screenings that those women who have insurance have, so we can save lives and keep moms alive to care for their children. The House failed to act.

So the House's action today and the causes of the impeachment are because I've done things to fight for families who are with me here today. And I'm going to talk about some of the examples that I'd like you -- to share with all of you, and some of the counts that the House is actually choosing to impeach me on.

For example, the I Save Prescription Drug Program is among the things the House said I should be removed from office for.

That was a program that we began back in, I believe it was late 2003 or early 2004, an idea that was brought to me by then-Congressman Rahm Emmanuel, who suggested that since the big pharmaceutical companies had a tremendous amount of sway with the FDA, that too many senior citizens were being forced to ration their medicine or couldn't afford to buy their medicine, and had to choose between whether they could afford their medicine or afford the groceries at the grocery store that they needed to live on, and that maybe we should try something different and go to Canada, and go to the place where you make the same medicines for the exact same companies. Only, if you have free and open trade and go to Canada, you can help our senior citizens save up to 30, 40, 50 percent on the cost of their medicine.

BLAGOJEVICH: We did that in Illinois, being the first state in America to defy the FDA and the big drug companies. And, I'm happy to say, we were joined by the state of Wisconsin, the state of Kansas and the state of Vermont. And a lot of senior citizens in Illinois have had the benefit of being able to afford their medicine at prices they can afford.

The House is impeaching me for that. Is that an impeachable offense?

I met a woman not long ago from the Humboldt Park area who was not feeling well, and was in a great deal of pain, so she went to see her doctor. And her doctor didn't know what was wrong with her. The best he could do for her was to prescribe Tylenol to ease her pain.

But then she came to one of our Pink Potluck programs in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. That's a program that we have to go out pro-actively and find women who don't have insurance and encourage them to get mammograms to screen for the possibility that they may have breast cancer.

This particular woman was at that Pink Potluck. And it was discovered after her screening that she not only had breast cancer, but it was stage 4 breast cancer.

And, fortunately for her, she got the mammogram that we provided. And, fortunately for us, we have the Illinois breast and cervical cancer program, the only one of its kind in America that allows for all 261,000 uninsured women in our state to get those mammograms, get the cervical cancer screenings. And, God forbid, cancer is found, like it was with that woman in Humboldt Park, then we'll treat that cancer and then try to help save her life.

BLAGOJEVICH: That's a lifesaving program the House would not act on. I found a way, with our lawyers, to do it around the legislative process. My question to you: Is that an impeachable act?

We're joined here today...

(CROSSTALK)

BLAGOJEVICH: I'll be happy to talk to you.

We're joined here by several families who've benefited by some of the programs and some of the initiatives, because I wouldn't take no for an answer from a House that was designed to block everything that could help people for whatever their motivations.

Omar Castillo is a young man who was on the All Kids program. He was 17, 18 years old. And then it was discovered that he had a rare liver disease -- kidney disease. And as a result of that, his life was in peril unless he can have a surgery and get a kidney that his brother was going to provide for him -- his loving brother was going to provide for him. But he couldn't get the surgery that would save his life because his parents didn't have health insurance, and he was no longer 18, he was 19, and he wasn't eligible for the All Kids program.

We intervened and acted in a way, with legal advice, around the legislature. Omar Castillo got that surgery. He got his liver. He's now alive and well and he's going to live a long and full and happy life.

Is that an impeachable offense?

And so what we are here today to talk about, and what I'm here to talk about is the fact that I understand the House's action. I'm not at all surprised by it. But I took actions, with the advice of lawyers and experts, to find ways -- creative ways to use the executive authority of a governor to get real things done for people who rely on us. And in many cases, the things we did for people have literally saved lives.

I don't believe those are impeachable offenses.

BLAGOJEVICH: So we're going to move forward. And I'm going to continue to fight every step of the way.

Let me reassert to all of you, once more, that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. That issue will be dealt with on a separate course, in an appropriate forum, a federal court. And I'm confident that, at the end of the day, I will be properly exonerated.

In the meantime, I have a job to do for the people. They hired me to not just to say that I'm for things that could help them, but they hired me to fight for them. And I'm going to fight for them every step of the way, because if I didn't fight for them, the results that we've provided for people would not have happened.

And, by the way, there's a bill that passed the Senate that the House has yet to act on. And I would suggest that while they're busy trying to throw me out of office, they may actually want to stop families from being thrown out of their homes, because when every day passes after Christmas, 400 families are being thrown out of their homes because of the foreclosure crisis.

The State Senate passed a bill in November. The House is sitting on it and hasn't acted. I'd respectfully encourage them to feel free to pass that bill and keep those 400 families in their homes, who every day are being kicked out of their homes.

With that, let me close by doing something that I probably won't do much after this, but I feel like doing it again, since I did it not too long ago. I want to quote another British poet.

And I'm inspired by it, because it was something that Ted Kennedy talked about in 1980 at the Democratic convention in New York after Jimmy Carter won the nomination. And I remember seeing that, and I remember going to the library and getting that poem and memorizing it.

And it, kind of, reminds me a little bit about the situation that I'm in and all the men and women who've supported me and given me a chance to be their governor and given me a chance to be able to fight for families like the ones who are here today and fight for families like the one I came from -- an immigrant father who was a factory worker and a steel worker who worked 40, 50, 60, 70 hours a week, who sacrificed; a working mom who worked for the Chicago Transit Authority and passed out transfers at the subway stations. They never owned a home. They were all about sacrificing so their kids could have a better life.

BLAGOJEVICH: That's what most parents want for their kids.

There hasn't been a day that's gone by since I've been governor that I haven't thought about my parents, their struggles and their sacrifices, and have tried to fight a system that listens to special interests and lobbyists and puts the burden on all of the troubles in -- in our state on the backs of the hardworking people who are the ones who should be looking to government for help, not the other way around.

And so I'll leave you with this poem by Tennyson, which goes like this.

"Though we are not now the strength which in old days moved Earth and Heaven, that which we are, we are. One equal temper, of heroic hearts, made weak by time and by fate, but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Thank you.

END

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