SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn pulled an end run on state lawmakers to salvage the jobs of two Cabinet members and dodge a short-term showdown with African-American and Latino lawmakers whose support he needs to win re-election this fall.
The Democratic governor took the rare step of withdrawing — and then quickly renominating — Julie Hamos, director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and Manny Flores, appointed to head the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The move has the effect of hitting the reset button on what had been a deadline this week for the Illinois Senate to confirm the two aides.
Critics who had been poised to vote down the appointments are crying foul — Quinn nominated Hamos, a former lawmaker from Evanston and Flores, a former Chicago alderman, a year ago, but now both are poised to stay in their jobs until the governor’s term expires in January without ever facing an up-or-down vote.
The Illinois Constitution says nominees must be voted up-or-down within 60 legislative session days — as opposed to calendar days — of the governor’s recommendation to the Senate or their nominations take effect automatically.
Republican Sen. Tim Bivins questioned why there are constitutional deadlines if Democrats “can run the clock out and do this maneuver all over again… It circumvents the entire system, the entire process. It’s an end run around the Constitution.”
A spokeswoman for Democratic Senate President John Cullerton called the situation “a rare occurrence” and said it gives Hamos and Flores more time to try to persuade senators to approve their appointments.
“Although it is a rare move, the executive appointments process doesn’t strictly prohibit the action,” spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson acknowledged the governor’s move was made to buy more time, saying the governor “strongly supports both directors.”
In the case of Flores, one big hurdle is Sen. Willie Delgado, the vice chairman of the Senate appointments panel. The two Chicago Democrats have clashed for years, most recently last month when Delgado supported winner Will Guzzardi in a House primary contest against 12-year Rep. Maria Antonia Berrios, whose father is Cook County Democratic Chairman Joe Berrios. Delgado could not be reached for comment Monday.
Quinn chose Hamos to head Healthcare and Family Services in 2010 as the state hunted for ways to scale back the growing costs of health care for the poor and found herself overseeing an agency where lawmakers had approved a series of ways to make sure people getting state assistance were eligible.
Hamos, who oversees the complex Medicaid program, has angered both black and Latino lawmakers who contend her cuts have unfairly come down hardest on their constituents.
Sen. Emil Jones III, D-Chicago, said the 10-member Senate Black Caucus that he chairs opposes the Hamos reappointment and said “nothing can be done” to mend fences.
Hamos’ moves have hurt safety net hospitals, Jones said, and she also oversaw cuts in such services as podiatry care, a major concern in an African-American community where foot problems associated with diabetes is a serious issue.
Chicago Democratic Sen. Martin Sandoval was among lawmakers calling for Quinn to replace Hamos last year and said pressing her nomination forward has “galvanized opposition.”
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