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Democrats may block impeachment resolution in California

Miriam Raftery
Published: Tuesday May 9, 2006

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Support for measure rising, insiders say

LA MESA, CALIFORNIA -- An impeachment resolution introduced into the California Legislature by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) may be blocked from reaching the floor, RAW STORY has learned.

"I think there is a shot," Koretz said when asked what odds Assembly Joint Resolution 39 has of winning passage. "The question is whether the leadership will let it move. There are a lot of bipartisan issues we're trying to work on this year," he added. (Text of the resolution.)

Democrats control both houses of the California Legislature. But leaders may be wary of losing Republican support for budget and tax measures, which require a two-thirds majority for passage under California law, one legislative insider told RAW STORY.

The measure calls on Congress to investigate potentially impeachable offenses committed by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"This is important enough, and the things that Bush is looking to do next are outrageous enough that we need to start a national dialogue on all of the outrageously unconstitutional and dangerous things that they have done," said Koretz, who represents West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and parts of Los Angeles.

Support for the measure is building within the Legislature.

In Washington, Republicans have cheered Democratic impeachment calls, saying they will only help them at the polls in November. Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman recently emailed supporters saying, "The Democrats' plan for 2006? Take the House and Senate, impeach the President. With our nation at war, is this the kind of Congress you want?"

Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is coauthor of the California impeachment resolution. Assembly members Jackie Goldberg (D-LA), Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-LA), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood) and Rudy Bermudez (D-Norwalk) have agreed to cosponsor AJR 39, Koretz told RAW STORY.

California is one of three states to take up an impeachment resolution under Section 603 of Section LIII in Constitution, Jefferson's Manual and Rules of the House of Representatives. The provision specifies that impeachment proceedings may be set in motion by charges transmitted from a state legislature or territory. Previously, this obscure provision has only been invoked to initiate impeachment proceedings against a judge.

Vermont and Illinois are considering similar measures. If passed, AJR 39 would be transmitted by the California Secretary of State to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration in Congress.

"The Legislature here is so polarized that it's hard to even get it referred to committee," said one Sacramento insider who asked not to be named. "It's going to be an uphill battle."

Koretz gutted an existing measure and introduced the amended version of AJR 39 on April 21. If referred to the Assembly Rules or Judiciary Committee, the bill would likely have enough support to reach the floor for a full vote, an Assembly insider confirmed.

The California resolution asserts the Bush Administration has committed a raft of impeachable offenses including waging war against Iraq in violation of the United Nations Charter, misleading Congress and the people about the threat posed by Iraq, and manipulating intelligence. AJR 39 also cites as potentially impeachable offenses the federalization and deployment of National Guard members overseas, violation of the Federal Torture Act, detaining prisoners indefinitely without access to legal counsel and authorization of warrantless wiretapping.

The resolution claims that Bush and Cheney may have committed espionage, fraud and obstruction of justice related to the leaking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson's identity and subsequently thwarting the investigation.

Nearly 1,000 attended a sold-out impeachment forum at the Crest Theater in Sacramento Apr. 29, sponsored by the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. Koretz drew a rousing ovation, along with other speakers including Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Shayana Kadidal, former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega, Iraq veteran Tim Goodrich, Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org.

Progressive radio host Mike Malloy said the Bush Administration "is being run as a criminal enterprise," adding that administration leaders behave "as if they are beyond Constitutional and international law."

At the state Democratic Convention the same weekend, the California Democratic Party adopted by unanimous consent an impeachment resolution calling for the immediate investigation of the President and Vice President for allegedly misleading Congress and the American public to justify war with Iraq, ordering warrantless wiretapping of American citizens and purportedly violating the Federal Torture Act.

"This is picking up steam," said Charlie Imes, chair of San Diego for Democracy, which is sponsoring Democracy for America's 2006 Democracy Fest July 14-16. "We've been talking with David Swanson (founder of the After Downing Street Coalition) about doing an impeachment forum similar to this for Democracy Fest."

An impeachment rally held outside the Sacramento Convention Center where the California Democratic Party was holding its state convention also attracted dozens of protesters.

Key activists are advising citizens who support impeachment to contact California's Assembly Speaker Fabio Nunez, along with chairs of the Assembly and Judiciary Committees, to urge that AJR 39 be heard. As support builds in California for impeachment, so does optimism among those present at impeachment events.

"This is giving us hope," said Fertik. "Hope is the scarcest commodity right now." Citing a failure of leadership among Washington Congressional leaders who have refused to consider impeachment, he observed that state-initiated impeachment efforts may be the most effective in the long run. "Efforts to impeach are better from the bottom up," he concluded, "because Washington is so poisonous."