WASHINGTON -- If you did not know the back story, you would not fully appreciate Rep. Rahm Emanuel's resignation letter to Gov. Blagojevich, who is the subject of impeachment proceedings in the Illinois House, for, among other reasons, trying to auction off President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat.
Emanuel, first elected to the House in 2002, formally announced Monday he would end his House career Jan. 2 to join the Obama administration as White House chief of staff. He was the fourth ranking Democrat in the House, given the post after he ran the political operation that won back control of the House for Democrats in 2006.
He informed residents of his 5th Congressional District, anchored in Chicago's North and Northwest Side neighborhoods, with robo calls on Monday. Emanuel is on a long-planned vacation to Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, traveling with his wife, Amy, their three children and friends.
Emanuel's letter makes his departure official -- he will not be sworn in to a fourth term when the new Congress convenes Jan. 6, and sets the stage for Blagojevich to call a special election to fill the vacancy. Unlike the Senate seat Obama vacated, filled by gubernatorial appointment, a vacated House seat is filled through a vote. Eleven people have filed statements with the Federal Election Commission that they are mulling a run, with more contestants expected. The Democratic primary front-runners so far (the district is heavily Democratic) are state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), Cook County Board member Mike Quigley and former Transportation Security Administration official Justin Oberman.
Emanuel's contacts with the scandalized governor and his staff have been under scrutiny as part of a federal probe of Blagojevich's alleged schemes to trade Obama's Senate seat for a spot in the Obama Cabinet, a top union job or a post running a nonprofit. Emanuel is not accused of any wrongdoing.
There is no hint of any problems in Emanuel's letter to Blagojevich.
"As sons of immigrants to this country, you and I have a deep appreciation for the opportunities America provides to those who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for their children," Emanuel wrote in his resignation letter to Blagojevich.
Blagojevich's father came to the United States from Serbia. Emanuel's father is an Israeli immigrant. Blagojevich faces criminal public corruption charges and almost certain impeachment.
Emanuel, who might have been Speaker of the House if Obama had not called, starts a new chapter in the historic Obama White House.