It's time to start packing for Rahm Emanuel's family. After "agonizing" about the decision to accept the White House Chief of Staff job in President-Elect Barack Obama's administration, the Illinois Congressman has accepted the position.
“I know what a privilege it is to serve in the White House, and am humbled by the responsibility we owe the American people. I’m leaving a job I love to join your White House for one simple reason - like the record amount of voters who cast their ballot over the last month, I want to do everything I can to help deliver the change America needs," Emanuel said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.
Emanuel's decision was difficult because of the impact the job will have on his young family. His wife, Amy Rule, their son and two daughters have strong roots in their North Side community.
"I'm fortunate my parents are alive to see I have the choice of staying in Congress or taking this important job," Emanual had said previously.
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Voters in the 5th Congressional District will now have to go back to the polls to elect his replacement. Emanuel easily won his re-election battle on Tuesday with 74 percent of the vote.
The top contenders for Emanuel's congressional seat: Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, Ilinois Sen. John Cullerton, Illinois Rep. John Fritchey, Cook County Commissioner Forest Claypool and newly-elected State Rep. Deborah Mell, who is Blagojevich's sister-in-law and the daughter of powerful Chicago Alderman Richard Mell.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich must call a special election at least five days after the vacancy occurs. After that, the election must be held within 115 days. Before Emanuel, Blagojevich represented the district from 1996-2002.
Crain's Chicago Business reported that those already being named by party insiders as potential successors include Cook County Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Michael Quigley; Chicago Aldermen Eugene Schulter (47th) and Thomas Allen (38th); state Rep. John Fritchey of Chicago; state Rep.-elect Deb Mell, daughter of Ald. Dick Mell (33rd), and state Director of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth.
Emanuel previously served as a political and policy aide in the Clinton White House before running for Congress, and Obama said that experience, coupled with his accomplishments in Congress, make him perfectly suited for the job.
"Though Rahm understands how to get things done in Washington, he still looks at the world from the perspective of his neighbors and constituents on the Northwest Side of Chicago, who work long and hard, and ask only that their government stand on their side and honor their values. The son of an Israeli immigrant, Rahm shares a passionate love for this country, and has devoted much of his life to its cause," Obama said.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley agreed.
"There's only one Chief of Staff for President of the United States. I just want to tell you, that is a huge gain. Besides that he comes from an urban community, is a tremendous gain for us. He comes with all the knowledge, dealing with urban issues, he comes with the executive branch of government, from President Clinton as a senior advisor, all the way to his experience with legislative affairs, so it gives you, it gives President Barack Obama, quite a quality chief of staff.
Full Statement from Congressman Rahm Emanuel:
“I know what a privilege it is to serve in the White House, and am humbled by the responsibility we owe the American people. I’m leaving a job I love to join your White House for one simple reason - like the record amount of voters who cast their ballot over the last month, I want to do everything I can to help deliver the change America needs. We have work to do, and Tuesday Americans sent Washington a clear message – get the job done.
“I have loved the time I spent in the House, both the successes and the setbacks, and I am grateful to the people of the Fifth Congressional district who sent me to work on their behalf. I was proud to serve on a leadership team with Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. They have taught me invaluable lessons—even a few lessons in humility, believe it or not.
“I want to say a special word about my Republican colleagues, who serve with dignity, decency and a deep sense of patriotism. We often disagree, but I respect their motives. Now is a time for unity, and Mr. President-elect, I will do everything in my power to help you stitch together the frayed fabric of our politics, and help summon Americans of both parties to unite in common purpose.
“It has been almost 150 years since Americans turned to a proud son of Illinois as their President. Early in his first term, Abraham Lincoln said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”
“Today, once again, our country is piled high with difficulty, and Americans have put their trust in President-elect Barack Obama and Vice-President-elect Joe Biden to think and act anew. And Mr. President-elect, I promise that your White House will do everything in our power to rise to the occasion," Emanuel said.