WASHINGTON • Illinois’s Democratic U.S. senators say they are worried the state’s senior Republican House member is abandoning a tradition of a bipartisan recommendation of the next U.S. attorneys in the state.
A spokesman for that congressman, Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville, said the congressman still considers that process to be collaborative and the senators could have found that out by picking up the phone and calling Shimkus before sending out a press release.
A contentious scenario nationally was set off last week with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ firing of sitting U.S. attorneys in the country. New presidential administrations do that, but questions of how they should be replaced are often answered by tradition and history.
In IIllinois, the controversy got sharper Tuesday Tuesday when Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent Shimkus a letter asking him to “continue our discussions with the goal of reestablishing a bipartisan process to identify and recommend candidates for whom we would be willing to” recommend for replacements.
The two senators also complained that a representative of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office sat in on a Jan. 17 call they had to discuss the recommendations, a practice that Durbin and Duckworth said went against tradition.
“The Governor of Illinois has no authority when it comes to choosing federal prosecutors and judges,” the two Democrats wrote Shimkus, the senior Republican in the Illinois delegation. “In fact, recent history suggests we should make every effort to avoid even an appearance of impropriety when it comes to the selection of federal prosecutors.”
Durbin and Duckworth said they had urged Shimkus in that Jan. 17 meeting to continue “the bipartisan approach we have followed for almost 20 years in recommending candidates to the White House. You informed us that you were not prepared to use this approach until you consulted with the Trump White House and the new Attorney General. We said we would give you more time.”
Shimkus’s communications director, Jordan Haverly, told the Post-Dispatch that “I was pretty surprised to read a press release about it before we saw a letter.
“I am sure that Sen. Durbin has Congressman Shimkus’s phone number if he wanted an update on this process. He didn’t need to ask for it through the press.”
Durbin and Duckworth complained that the process has taken too long and they had not heard from Shimkus about it.
Haverly said his boss was “still waiting for additional guidance from the Department of Justice” on what kind of U.S. attorneys they want in Illinois’s three districts.
“Mr. Shimkus is going to talk to all sorts of people who are interested in the next people for these positions,” Haverly said. “We hope it can be an inclusive and bipartisan process.”
Chuck Raasch • 202-298-6880
@craasch on Twitter