At first blush, Rod Blagojevich’s promise not to appoint a replacement for Barack Obama’s Senate seat might put some minds at ease in Springfield and Washington DC.  However, under the circumstances, it creates a game of chicken with the Illinois legislature.  How long are they willing to leave the seat vacant?

Gov. Rod Blagojevich will not appoint anyone to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, the governor’s lawyer said today.

Speaking at a news conference following his appearance before a committee weighing Blagojevich’s impeachment, lawyer Ed Genson was asked if Blagojevich would make an appointment against the wishes of Democrats across the state and country.

“No,” Genson replied. “(U.S. Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid said that they’re not going to accept anybody he picks. Why would he do that?”

As long as Blagojevich stays in office, he’s the only person who can appoint Obama’s replacement.  If he refuses to do it, and if he refuses to resign, the seat will stay empty.  That means Harry Reid loses another potential vote against filibusters, as he has to have 60 votes to defeat one.  Democrats will lose a portion of their advantage, and Republicans have a better shot at blocking legislation, as long as the seat remains unfilled.

That puts the ball in the legislature’s court.  They adjourned this week without considering a special election.  Blagojevich has supported the idea of a special election as long as the legislature permanently changes the law to force special elections for mid-term Senate openings, and he won’t sit idly by if the legislature passes any temporary solutions — especially one that transfers his powers to Pat Quinn without an impeachment.

Blagojevich has already shown that he will fight impeachment with everything he’s got, probably right up until Patrick Fitzgerald gets a conviction against him for corruption.  Even House speaker Michael Madigan concedes that it will take months to remove Blagojevich.  How long will Madigan and Senate president Emil Jones allow the Senate seat to remain empty while playing chicken?  Either they have to approve a special election or handicap Senate Democrats for the foreseeable future.