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Vermont lawmakers to call for Bush impeachment

Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian | April 26 2006

BURLINGTON — A Progressive lawmaker today will introduce a formal resolution in the state Legislature calling on Congress to draft articles of impeachment against Pres. George W. Bush.

Rep. Dave Zuckerman, P-Burlington, claims support from at least a dozen lawmakers, including Democrats, Progressives and one independent, and expects to have more co-signers before handing the resolution into the House clerk later today.

The following legislators have signed onto the resolution as of early Tuesday: Rep. George Cross, D-Winooski; Rep. Winston Dowland, P-Holland; Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln; Rep. Steve Green, D-Berlin; Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester; Rep. Jason Lorber, D-Burlington; Rep. Jim McCullough, D-Williston; Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington; Rep. Kathy Pellett, D-Chester; Rep. Daryl Pillsbury, I-Brattleboro; Rep. Dexter Randall, P-North Troy; Rep. Ann Seibert, D-Norwich.

The resolution lays out a broad case for impeachment, ranging from wiretapping U.S. citizens to lying about reasons for going to war in Iraq. It is modeled, in part, after recent resolutions approved by county Democratic committees

“We should not get into perpetual impeachment proceedings with every president, and if you disagree with their policies you should work through the democratic process,” said Zuckerman. “However, no president is above the law, and while Republicans used impeachment to carry out a policy disagreement with a president, this is about a president who thinks he’s king. We threw that notion overboard more than 200 years ago.”

Zuckerman, who has been mulling this resolution since February, put it on hold as the session gathered steam and he considered making his own bid for the U.S. House. Then county Democratic committees took up the call, as did several towns.

“I thought it was appropriate to give those grassroots efforts time,” he said.

Zuckerman is relying on the Jefferson Manual of rules for the U.S. House of Representatives that allows state legislatures to initiate impeachment proceedings by submitting charges to Congress.

State Democrats earlier this month sidestepped the Legislature in response to a grassroots effort among various county committees to get lawmakers to initiate such proceedings. Top lawmakers voiced tepid support for legislative action, saying it was coming at a time when too many policy discussions were being made on the budget, health care and transportation.

Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, said she had not seen Zuckerman’s resolution, but expected it would have to be sent to either the House Government Operations Committee or the House Judiciary Committee before being brought to a full vote.

“If this is based on the county committee language, then the language that I’ve seen in the county committee level would require testimony along the lines of providing due process,” said Symington. “I don’t think it would be appropriate for the Legislature to make sweeping accusations without testimony. We have to uphold the right of due process, even with someone I disagree with as vehemently as I do with Pres. Bush.”

Given the likelihood of the session coming to a close within the next week or so, the resolution may not yield a floor vote.

Jim Barnett, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, decried the impeachment resolution, calling it a purely partisan maneuver with little, if any, benefit for Vermonters.

"Instead of focusing on the real priorities and needs of the people of Vermont — like affordable health care, property tax relief, college scholarships and good paying jobs — Democrats in the Legislature continue to consume themselves with partisan fantasies of impeaching the president, raising the gas tax, and banning the cropping of dogs' ears."

Zuckerman’s effort comes on the heels of a letter written by Rep. Richard Marek, D-Newfane, which was signed by 56 members of the House, including Symington, and 13 members of the Senate. No Republicans signed the letter.

Marek’s letter, which is being sent to the members of Vermont's congressional delegation, states that many Vermonters believe Pres. Bush violated the law and the U.S. Constitution by holding people as “enemy combatants” or beyond their court-ordered release, by ordering secret wiretaps of phone conversations, and by misleading the public on the reasons for invading Iraq.

“These questions raise, both individually and in their totality, issues of the gravest national importance,” the letter states. “Fundamental standards of due process require that such allegations not simply be accepted as true; however, they also cannot and should not be ignored.”

Obtaining “objective answers to these questions is increasingly critical to sustaining public faith in our constitutional system of government and in its requirement for accountability by every president,” it states.

Six Vermont towns passed resolutions on Town Meeting Day calling for Bush’s impeachment.

That was followed by, at last count, at least eight Democratic county committees. The state Democratic Party Committee also has endorsed a measure that asks the Republican-controlled U.S. House to pass articles of impeachment against Bush for misleading the nation on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and engaging in illegal wiretapping, among other charges.

On May 1, Vermont’s effort moves to the nation’s capital when Vermonters plan to hand deliver their petitions to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL.

The members of Vermont’s congressional delegation, who are not enthusiastic about impeachment, do support hearings that could lead to possible censure.





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