Report: Cheney backs off on claim that he is 'fourth branch of government'
With a vote looming in Congress on Thursday to defund the Office of the Vice President in the White House's annual appropriation, a report at The Politico claims that the White House will no longer advance the argument that the Vice President's office is not a part of the executive branch.
"The White House has no plans to reassert the argument there is any vice presidential distinction from the executive branch," according to Bush administration officials who spoke with reporter Mike Allen. "Two senior Republican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the rationale had been the view of the vice presidentís lawyers, not Cheney himself."
However, Cheney's change of tack does not mean that Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, will end his drive to defund the Vice President's $4 million-plus appropriation for the next fiscal year.
"Emanuel said the vote is still planned, and said the new position means the vice president needs to comply with National Archives requirements," Allen added.
The veteran reporter suggested that a letter written by the Vice President's chief of staff, David Addington, to Senator John Kerry (D-MA) amounted to a capitulation as it no longer held that Cheney's office was outside of the executive branch. RAW STORY reported Tuesday on the letter.
However, Addington made clear that he still did not believe that the Vice President's office, or the President's for that matter, was bound by the rules for the security of certain classified information laid out in Executive Order 12958. He wrote that the order "makes clear that the Vice President is treated like the President and distinguishes the two of them from 'agencies.'"
In a response at The Gavel, the blog of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, staff member Jesse Lee noted the original complaint to the Attorney General filed by the National Archives and Records Administration rebutted Addington's claim.
"OVP staff, when they are supporting the Vice President in the performance of executive duties, are an entity within the executive branch that comes into possession of classified information and are thus, for the purposes of the Order, an agency," NARA wrote to Alberto Gonzales.
One legal scholar, Marty Lederman, offered a substantive critique of Addington's claim to Kerry.
"Such an interpretation would be belied by the fact that until 2003, the OVP did comply with the ISOO directive, and, even more so, by the fact that entities within the Executive Office of the President, such as the National Security Council, are reported to continue to comply to this very day," he observed in a lengthy post at Balkinization.