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updated: 4/17/2014 8:29 PM

GOP lawmakers deny they voted to steer $100 million to Obama library

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  • State Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr.

      State Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr.

  • Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, left, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appear before an Illinois House committee meeting Thursday where both supported a plan to devote $100 million in state funds to help bring President Barack Obama's presidential museum and library to Chicago.

      Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, left, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appear before an Illinois House committee meeting Thursday where both supported a plan to devote $100 million in state funds to help bring President Barack Obama's presidential museum and library to Chicago.
    Associated Press

 
 

Illinois House lawmakers moved Thursday to commit $100 million in state money to build President Barack Obama's official library in Chicago over the objections of at least one suburban Republican lawmaker who says he was recorded as voting for it even though he wasn't at the meeting.

State lawmakers said the money was intended to sweeten a Chicago bid for the library, noting that Hawaii, where Obama was born, and New York, where he attended college, also are interested in housing the presidential artifacts and records.

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But the proposal was approved by a House committee that recorded a 9-0 vote even though at least four lawmakers counted as yes votes, all Republicans, were not at the hearing.

"The legacy of the Obama Presidential Library shouldn't be kicked off in a cloud of controversy," said state Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican who says he didn't expect a vote and would have voted against committing public funds.

Democrats say the committee had recessed a hearing the day before about expanding gambling in Illinois. Nine lawmakers attended that hearing. On Thursday, when the chairman asked for a vote based on that attendance, no one objected. So a 9-0 vote was recorded.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan said Democrats weren't trying to approve the plan in secret.

"Obviously, if that's a problem, the committee will reconvene and take another vote," spokesman Steve Brown said.

Either way, the plan would still need approval by the full House and Senate, where Obama served before going to Washington as a U.S. senator.

Madigan called Thursday's unanimous vote by the House committee "a very good start" to Illinois' pitch for the library.

Brown said legislators still must determine a funding source to pay for the $100 million in bonds.

But he said the goal is to pass the legislation through the House and Senate before the legislature adjourns May 31, so it can be included in a formal bid.

A nonprofit foundation launched by Obama backers with the president's support has asked parties interested in hosting the library to submit proposals by June 16.

State and local officials aren't taking for granted that the Windy City will land the president's official library even though Chicago is where Obama got his start in politics, first lady Michelle Obama grew up and the Obamas still call their hometown.

"We are not going to rely on the president's affinity for the city of Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, said during the hearing. "We want to be very competitive in making sure this library and this foundation come back to the city of Chicago."

Madigan said he will work with the various Chicago universities and other interested sites to try to agree on one location and submit the strongest possible unified bid. The foundation is expected to review that information and notify groups in May that will be invited to submit more detailed and formal proposals. The final decision is up to the president and first lady and is expected to be announced in early 2015.

• The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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