President-elect Barack Obama says he's resigning from the Senate, effective Sunday.
The move was expected. Obama won the presidency last week over Republican John McCain.
His resignation reduces the Democratic majority to a bare minimum for the post-election session that begins next week. The party retains control as long as Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut sides with them.
The irony is that several Democrats favor punishing Lieberman for his speech at the Republican National Convention this summer and for some of the remarks he made critical of Obama in the course of the presidential campaign.
Obama has sought to stay out of that debate and his spokesmen have said he doesn't hold any grudges.
It's now up to Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to name Obama's replacement.
Blagojevich has said he expects to make a decision by the end of the year and is "not interested" in naming himself to the post.
Under the state’s 65-year-old Senate succession law, the governor must make an appointment to fill the vacancy until the next federal election, in 2010, but there is no time frame for how quickly the appointment has to occur.
Blagojevich is under no legal deadline to select an Obama replacement. It's been a long time since an Illinois governor had this juicy a plum to give away: the last Senate vacancy was in 1969 when Ralph Tyler Smith was selected by then Gov. Richard Ogilvie to fill the slot left vacant by the death of Sen. Everett Dirksen.
Potential candidates to replace Obama include Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
On Tuesday, Obama appeared with another potential replacement, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, to commemorate Veterans Day. She is a former congressional candidate and head of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs.
A day later, Obama friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett made it known that she's not interested in the Senate seat.
Congress is scheduled to meet in a special session next week, but aides to Obama had said the president-elect would not be returning to Washington to vote on Senate matters, in advance of his being sworn in as the nation’s 44th president Jan. 20, the Chicago Tribune reported.
"It has been one of the highest honors and privileges of my life to have served the people of Illinois in the United States Senate," Obama said in a statement. "In a state that represents the crossroads of a nation, I have met so many men and women who’ve taken different journeys, but hold common hopes for their children’s future. It is these Illinois families and their stories that will stay with me as I leave the United States Senate and begin the hard task of fulfilling the simple hopes and common dreams of all Americans as our nation’s next President.”
Obama was in Chicago Thursday working on transition matters from the Kluczynski Federal Building in the Loop.