Washington Democrat adds voice to Cheney impeachment drive
A Democratic Congressman from Washington state became the latest Member of Congress to add his voice to the calls for the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. The move came the same night that House Democrats failed to unite their party around a measure to cut the funding for the Office of the Vice President in response to Cheney's declaration that his office was not a part of the executive branch.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) declared in an address on the House floor Thursday night that he was in favor of impeaching the vice president.
"It is time for a new exit strategy, one that removes the Vice President of the United States from office, voluntarily, if he chooses, but by impeachment if he stonewalls," said the Seattle Democrat and Progressive Caucus member. "I have struggled mightily with this matter for a long time...Since the President permits the flagrant disregard of the Constitution, it is up to the Congress to act and defend the American people. With each new revelation, America has seen only glints of what has been done totally in secret."
McDermott said that he was adding his name to H.Res. 333, the Articles of Impeachment introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and already supported by nine additional Congress members. But he also made it clear that he was concerned with crimes beyond those called out in the Ohio Democrat's legislation.
"The Vice President holds himself accountable to no one," Rep. McDermott argued. "He ordered the Secret Service to destroy visitors logs, and we have learned in the Washington Post recently, that the Vice President circumvented every check and balance inside the White House to force through his own agenda, to spy on Americans through illegal wire traps, creating the gulag at Guantanamo, and subverting civil liberties and free speech at every turn."
Note: Text and video of McDermott's speech are available at the Congressman's website.
In a conference call on Thursday afternoon, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi made it clear that the decisions of Democrats like McDermott were not enough to change her mind on impeachment, which she continued to insist was off the table.
"It's a choice that has to be made," she said. "I made a decision...one year ago that impeachment was something we could not be successful with, and that would take up the time we needed to do some positive things to establish a record of our priorities and their shortcomings. The president isn't worth impeaching. If it were the beginning of his term, people might think of it differently, but he's at the end of his term...the last two years of his term, we just want to be rid of him."
Rep. supports impeachment, but funded Cheney's office
While McDermott announced Thursday night that he was in favor of impeaching Cheney, he also lined up with 23 Democratic colleagues to defeat an amendment that would have cut all funds for the Vice President's office in the next fiscal year.
RAW STORY had reported on Thursday that some Democratic leaders expected a party line vote on the amendment to the Financial Services Appropriations bill. But a curious assortment of Blue Dog Democrats, Congressional Progressive Caucus members, House Committee chairs, and others banded together to produce the 209-217 vote against Rep. Rahm Emanuel's (D-IL) amendment.
Reps. David Obey (D-WI) and John Murtha (D-PA), powerful members of the House Appropriations Committee who cast a rare vote with Republican lawmakers on the measure, could not be reached for comment Friday.
But McDermott's spokesman told RAW STORY that he didn't think the amendment was appropriate.
"Rep. McDermott shares the frustration of others with the vice president's office, but there really was a constitutional question of whether that was possible," said Mike DeCesare, the Seattle-based Communications Director for the Congressman.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), another Progressive who voted with the Republicans on the measure, also questioned the usefulness of the measure.
"Congressman Capuano believes firmly that the Vice Presidentís actions warrant investigation," said spokeswoman Alison Mills in an e-mail. "Nevertheless, he did not support eliminating funding for the Office of the Vice President. He viewed this as merely a symbolic measure that would not produce the results we all desire. Defunding would not make the Office of the Vice-President transparent or accountable."
While the measure was defeated, a spokesperson for Rep. Emanuel, the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, still claimed victory.
"Democrats forced the Vice President to abandon the assertion that he was not part of the executive branch," the spokesperson told RAW STORY in a statement. "Democrats will continue to hold the Vice President accountable and fight to ensure our government is open and honest."
But while Emanuel's office claimed the Illinois Democrat's measure had whipped Cheney back into line, the Vice President's office spun it as a bipartisan victory of their own.
"We are pleased to see a bipartisan majority reject this political stunt," Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn told the Associated Press on Thursday night.