Kucinich, by bringing his Cheney impeachment resolution to a floor vote in the House, has shaken up the politics of impeachment, and looks like it may end up putting Cheney in the dock.
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.”
With these kinds of endorsements and calls for action, it is clear both that Speaker Pelosi is looking increasingly pathetic and out of touch with her “impeachment is off the table” mantra, and also that Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI), who seems to have been intimidated by the Speaker for the past year, but who earlier had been a leader in exposing the crimes of the Bush/Cheney administration, is getting strong support for taking a bolder stand.
Stephen Cohen (D-TN), a member of the Judiciary Committee who is a co-sponsor of the Kucinich resolution, says he thinks that there will be an impeachment hearing in the committee.
The 22 House members who have already signed on as co-sponsors of Kucinich’s Cheney impeachment resolution are: Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Maxine Waters D-CA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Lynn Woolsey D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Albert Wynn (D-MD), William Lacy Clay (D-MO, Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Jim Moran (D-VA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Robert Brady (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI), Ed Towns (D-NY, Diane Watson (D-CA, and Danny Davis (D-IL).
The change is attitude toward impeachment among the rank and file, and the evident increasing willingness to buck the Speaker, reflects growing awareness of the groundswell of popular anger with the Bush administration and the Democratic Congress over continued funding of the Iraq War, and over continued erosion of Constitutional government and civil liberties by an administration that wants unfettered executive power and by a Congress that is afraid to act.
The latest polls show three in four Democrats in favor of impeaching the vice president and president, while a majority of all Americans favor impeaching the vice president and roughly half of all Americans favor impeaching the president.
This is before hearings and presentation of evidence have even begun!
A failed strategy
The Democratic strategy for the 2008 election has been to do nothing overly confrontational, to pass no significant legislation, to collect lots of money from corporate interests, and to hope that the Republican Party, saddled with an unpopular administration and an unpopular war, will implode.
The strategy, however, is proving to be a disaster, as public support for the Democratic do-nothing Congress has fallen even below the president’s record low numbers. Just running against Republicans, Bush/Cheney, and the continuing war risks seeing Democrats go down to defeat in ’08.
It is awareness of this looming electoral disaster that underlies the growing restiveness among rank-and-file Democrats in the House, all of whom have to face the voters in less than a year’s time.
As recently as a month ago, it didn’t look like impeachment was in the cards,
Now it’s starting to look like we Cheney’s going to be put in the dock.
It may not be long before we start to see bills of impeachment filed against President Bush too.
The corporate media enjoy making fun of Rep. Kucinich, a height-challenged but dedicated progressive who has made a career of standing tall for his views. If his bill ends up leading to impeachment hearings against Cheney, Kucinich will end up having the last laugh.
About Dave Lindorff
Dave lindorff is a Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback).