By Dave Lindorff
You wouldn’t know it if you just watch TV news or read the corporate press, but this past Tuesday, something remarkable happened. Despite the pig-headed opposition of the Democratic Party’s top congressional leadership, a majority of the House, including three Republicans, voted to send Dennis Kucinich’s long sidelined Cheney impeachment bill (H Res 333) to the Judiciary Committee for hearings.
The vote was 218 to 194.
Now the behind-the-scenes partisan maneuvering that preceded that vote was arcane indeed, with Kucinich first exercising a member’s privilege motion to present his stymied impeachment bill to the full House, only to have Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrange for a colleague (Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD) offer a motion to table it. The Republicans, anxious to embarrass the Speaker, threw a wrench into that plan, though, by voting as a bloc to oppose tabling. Since Kucinich already has 22 co-sponsors for his bill, it was clear that the tabling gambit would fail. As soon as that became apparent, rank-and-file Democrats, unwilling to be seen by their constituents as defending Cheney, rushed to change their votes to opposing the tabling motion. In the end, tabling failed by 242 to 170 with 77 Democrats supporting a pleasantly surprised Kucinich.
In order to avoid a floor debate on the merits of impeaching the eminently impeachable Vice President Cheney, Pelosi and her allies then moved to send Kucinich’s bill directly to the Judiciary Committee. They were joined by three Republicans, including maverick Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX).
Now the hope of the Democratic leadership is that this means Kucinich’s impeachment bill will continue to be safely bottled up in a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. But it may not work out that way for them.
Whatever the explanation, this impeachment bill has been endorsed by a floor vote of the full House, with bipartisan support.
For the Judiciary Committee to sit on it now and not schedule a hearing would be a gross travesty of parliamentary procedure and custom.
Indeed, some House members not associated with Kucinich’s resolution are now openly calling for immediate hearings into Cheney’s impeachable actions—specifically lying the country into a war in Iraq, and threatening war with Iran.
One indication of the change in the political climate in the House is the announcement by Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), a six-term congressman and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, that he will call for the Judiciary Committee to take up Kucinich’s impeachment bill. This is significant because Wexler, no left-wing hothead, is not a co-signer of the Kucinich bill.
In an email message to constituents, Wexler said:
“I share your belief that Vice President Cheney must answer for his deceptive actions in office, particularly with regard to the preparations for the Iraq war and the revelation of the identity of covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson as part of political retribution against her husband.”
“…Cheney and the bush Administration have demonstrated a consistent pattern of abusing the law and misleading Congress and the American people. We see the consequences of these actions abroad in Iraq and at home through the violations of our civil liberties. The American people are served will with a legitimate and thorough impeachment inquiry. I will urge the Judiciary Committee to schedule impeachment hearings immediately and not let this issue languish as it has over the last six months. Only through hearings can we begin to correct the abuses of Dick Cheney and the bush administration; and if it is determined in these hearings that Vice President Cheney has committed High Crimes and Misdemeanors, he should be impeached and removed from office. It is time for Congress to expose the multitude of misdeeds of the Administration and I am hopeful that the Judiciary Committee will expeditiously begin an investigation of this matter.”
Also calling for prompt action by the Judiciary Committee in the wake of the Tuesday House vote was Carol Shea-Porter, a first-term Democrat from New Hampshire, who also is not a sponsor of the Kucinich measure. In explaining her vote to send the Kucinich bill to the Judiciary Committee, she said:
“It is the duty of the Vice President to faithfully execute the laws of the United States of America and to defend the Constitution. There is growing evidence that the Executive Branch has ignored some of our laws and has attempted to bend the Constitution to its will. Members of both parties decided that this issue is too important to ignore. I voted with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to investigate the Vice President’s actions in office.”
She characterized the resolution sending the bill to the Judiciary Committee a “strongly bi-partisan vote.”
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