By Nancy Remsen
Vermont Senate supports Bush/Cheney impeachment resolution
Sun Apr 22, 2007 03:10
Vermont Senate supports Bush/Cheney impeachment resolution

By Nancy Remsen
Free Press Staff Writer

April 21, 2007
MONTPELIER -- Without a single speech, the Vermont Senate voted 16-9 early Friday morning to support a resolution urging the initiation of impeachment proceedings in Congress against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Senators listened as the resolution was read, then Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin, who was presiding in Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie's absence, called for the vote.

All 16 supporters were Democrats. Three Democrats joined six Republicans in voting against the resolution. Senate Republican Leader William Doyle of Washington County said later that the charges didn't meet the test set out in the U.S. Constitution.

The resolution lists three reasons the Vermont Senate was urging Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., to introduce, and Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to support a resolution to require impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney:

The nation's top leaders had carried out their duties in ways that raised "serious questions of constitutionality, statutory legality and abuse of public trust."

In leading the nation to war in Iraq and continually advocating its continuation, Bush and Cheney have cost the country much of the good will extended in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Their leadership on matters of individual privacy and personal liberty have raised constitutional questions of great concern to citizens.

The state's congressional delegation responded Friday saying that although they shared many Vermonters' frustrations and anger at the Bush administration, they said it was premature to pursue impeachment.

"There are a number of investigations taking place regarding the actions of the Bush administration, including how and why we invaded Iraq, no-bid contracts, the firing of U.S. attorneys by the attorney general, the assault on constitutional rights and the use of Republican Party e-mails in the White House," the delegation said in a joint statement. "Before we talk about impeachment, it is imperative that these investigations be allowed to run their course and we should then follow wherever the facts lead."

Morning surprise

Jimmy Leas of South Burlington, wearing a red, white and blue "Impeach Bush and Cheney" pin on his lapel, rushed toward the Senate chamber only to find the vote on the impeachment resolution had already occurred -- shortly after 8:30 a.m. and before some senators had even arrived in the chamber.

"This is a great achievement," Leas declared with a broad smile. "I think it is going to inspire people all over the country. Now that it has passed in the Vermont Senate, hopefully it will pass in other places."

Leas said he learned late Thursday that the Senate might consider an impeachment resolution. Earlier in the week, Leas had joined a crowd of 130 who came to the Statehouse only to be disappointed when Shumlin and House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, said they weren't going to take time from the busy end-of-session schedule for an impeachment debate.

Friday, Shumlin joined Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, in sponsoring the impeachment resolution. When it came time to vote, Shumlin asked another senator to preside so he could cast his vote for its passage.

"It's no secret I supported it all along," Shumlin explained. "I felt badly I hadn't advanced it."

Shumlin had an opportunity Friday to bring up the resolution for a quick vote because of Dubie's absence. If Dubie had been presiding, he could have referred the resolution to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review and that would have killed the measure for this session. The Senate Judiciary Committee is no longer meeting.

Shumlin said he called Dubie, who was out of state, and told him what he planned to do. "I didn't want him to feel blindsided."

"Peter Shumlin is really a hero," Leas declared between cell phone calls to other impeachment supporters. "Peter Shumlin deserves a lot of credit for listening to the people, listening to his conscience and taking action."

Sen. Richard McCormack, D-Windsor, had also submitted an impeachment resolution for consideration Friday, but withdrew it. He had promised after Tuesday's rally that he would bring the question to the Senate. His regret Friday, he said, was that he didn't get a chance to sign on as a sponsor of the resolution that passed.

"I don't think Bush will get impeached, but it is an important statement," McCormack said. "The president has wrapped himself in the flag and there are a lot of good people who think it is more patriotic to support Bush than oppose him."

McCormack said impeachment resolutions are "an assertion of patriotism." He said, "Many people oppose Bush because of his contempt for our national institutions."

Vermont's impeachment supporters want more than a symbolic victory. They want this legislature or one in another state to force Congress to start the impeachment process -- if someone in Congress doesn't initiate it.

Leas said impeachment supporters had planned to rally at noon today outside Burlington City Hall to put pressure on Vermont lawmakers. "Now it is going to be a celebration."

House challenges

Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, began gathering signatures on a House impeachment resolution Friday afternoon. He expected to file the resolution with the clerk of the House on Tuesday afternoon, so it would be up for consideration Wednesday.

"Then the speaker can decide whether to send it to a committee or bring it up for a vote," Zuckerman said.

Symington said Friday she expected she would refer any impeachment resolution to the House Judiciary Committee. "I don't think the majority of Vermonters want their state Legislature to be taking up and debating the questions of whether to call for impeachment of the president and the vice president."

Symington noted that earlier in the session the House debated and passed a resolution calling for immediate, orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. "I think that was a fairly bold step," she said. "To continue to bring up issues and go beyond that I don't think is appropriate."

She opposes impeachment at this time, she added, "because I think it would become a circus." It would distract Congress from its investigations of the administration.

Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, lead sponsor of the troop withdrawal resolution, bluntly assessed the prospects of an impeachment resolution in the House. "I believe it would lose."

Contact Nancy Remsen at 229-4125 or HOW THE SENATE VOTED Senators who voted yes: Clair D. Ayer, D-Addison; Susan J. Bartlett, D-Lamoille; James C. Condos, D-Chittenden; Ann E. Cummings, D-Washington; Ed Flanagan, D-Chittenden; Harold Giard, D-Addison; Robert M. Hartwell, D-Bennington; M. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia; Sara Branon Kittell, D-Franklin; Virginia V. Lyons, D-Chittenden; Mark A. MacDonald, D-Orange; Richard J. McCormack, D-Windsor; Alice W. Nitka, D-Windsor; Douglas A. Racine, D-Chittenden; Peter Shumlin, D-Windham; Jeanette K. White, D-Windham.

Senators who voted no: Bill Carris, D-Rutland; William T. Doyle, R-Washington; Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans; Hull P. Maynard, R-Rutland; Richard T. Mazza, D-Chittenden/Grand Isle; Kevin J. Mullin, R-Rutland; Philip B. Scott, R-Washington; Richard W. Sears, D-Bennington; Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden.

Those Senators absent or not voting were: John F. Campbell, D-Windsor (presiding); Donald E. Collins, D-Franklin; George R. Coppenrath, R-Caledonia; Hinda Miller, D-Chittenden; Robert A. Starr, D-Essex/Orleans.

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