House rejects impeachment resolution

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(Host) The Vermont House has rejected a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

The vote came as hundreds of impeachment supporters swarmed the Statehouse to lobby lawmakers.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Before the House settles down to the work of the day, there’s a little ceremony in which members introduce friends or family who are visiting the Statehouse.

As the House was about to debate the impeachment resolution, Speaker Gaye Symington acknowledged the 300 or so impeachment supporters who jammed the gallery. The speaker said she wanted to

(Symington) ” Welcome and recognize those of you who are here paying attention to the resolution and paying to and participating in democracy in Vermont… Will the guests of all of us please rise and be recognized?”


(Dillon) Earlier in the day, Symington explained to the crowd of impeachment supporters why she did not support the resolution. Impeachment, she believes, will distract the Congress from investigating the war in Iraq or the firing of federal prosecutors.

But during the House debate, Brattleboro Independent Darryl Pillsbury said the president must be held accountable, and the most effective way to do that is through impeachment proceedings.

(Pillsbury) “I think that we at least start the proceedings to get the facts of what he has done or hasn’t done or what we think he’s done that’s right and what he hasn’t done that’s right and we will let the Congress decide. But we’ve got to at least get to that point. In my opinion if we don’t at least start this action, we are leaving the American people – all of us – an opening for any administration to come through and do as he so pleases.”

(Dillon) But Barre Town Republican Thomas Koch said the resolution failed to specify what Bush has done to justify impeachment.

(Koch) “If there are any lessons to be learned from the Clinton impeachment, and I think there are, is that impeachment is not to be treated lightly. Impeachment ought to be reserved for the most egregious, the most urgent, high crimes and misdemeanors.”

(Dillon) Democrats, who hold a majority in the House, were divided on the resolution. Many agreed with Speaker Symington that impeachment would be a distraction.

But Burlington representative William Aswad said the resolution was needed to send a strong message of dissent from Vermont to Washington.

(Aswad) “If this resolution is voted down, it confirms an unprecedented level of tolerance for corrupt use of power that will only grow larger in coming presidencies.

(Dillon) In the end, the resolution lost by 27 votes. Yet activists said they were pleased they at least got to a vote. Newfane woodworker Dan Dewalt helped start the impeachment movement last year in Town meetings.

(Dewalt) “I’m amazingly encouraged by the fact that close to 400 people came to the Statehouse today, tripling the number that came last week. And the fact that our legislature was willing to change their mind. I mean they said absolutely not, and then they said okay we will debate this. And I think that is a pretty significant positive.”

(Dillon) The activists said they would continue to urge Vermont’s congressional delegation to call for impeachment proceedings.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

(Host) The Vermont Senate passed an impeachment resolution last week and sent it to the congressional delegation.

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