Senate calls for impeachment of Bush and Cheney

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(Host) The Vermont Senate has called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

The resolution makes the state Senate the first legislative body in the nation to endorse impeachment.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Senators cited the war in Iraq and issues relating to individual privacy and personal liberty as reasons for impeachment.

But the vote came with little warning and no debate. The resolution wasn’t listed in the Senate calendar – where pending issues are usually posted. The early morning vote also came on a day when Republican Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie was out of town.

As the presiding officer, Dubie could have stalled action by sending the resolution to a committee.

But Senate President Pro tem Peter Shumlin, a Windham Democrat, said he talked with Dubie and told him the Senate would take up the resolution.

(Shumlin) “I didn’t want him to feel blindsided so I let him know what my intentions were in advance. And he understood my reasoning.”

(Dillon) The legislative action follows votes in more than 40 Vermont towns earlier this spring.

James Leas is a Burlington lawyer who has lobbied the legislature the issue. On Tuesday more than 100 impeachment supporters held a raucous meeting with Shumlin and House Speaker Symington. Leas said the show of support was key to changing minds in the Senate.

(Leas) “And it’s a fantastic victory for people being involved, the citizens coming out and supporting their constitution and the American way of life which is so against so many of the things this president and this vice president are doing.”

(Dillon) The vote puts the Senate at odds with Democratic leadership in the House, where Speaker Gaye Symington is against the impeachment resolution.

Shumlin said he felt compelled to move the issue to a vote, because of the support for impeachment shown by communities around Vermont. The Senate passed the resolution 16 to 9.

(Shumlin) “The bottom line is 40 towns across Vermont have voted to have us take this action. I’ve made very clear that I’m respectful of the speaker’s feeling about impeachment. I think she makes a very compelling case for her point of view. We don’t agree and I felt that this was a way to advance the issue to Congress in a thoughtful way while respecting the desires of the leadership of the House.”

(Dillon) Symington said the legislature has more important issues to focus on in the remaining weeks of the session. She pointed out the House did vote for a resolution calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

(Symington) “That was important enough to bring up and debate in the House. But to continue to bring up issues and go beyond that, I don’t think is appropriate.”

(Dillon The resolution urges Vermont’s congressional delegation to ask the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to initiate impeachment proceedings.

But that’s not likely to happen. The delegation is cool on the idea. And the members issued a statement Friday saying that before Congress turns to impeachment, it first needs to thoroughly investigate the Bush Administration’s record on Iraq, the firings of U.S. Attorneys, and the administration’s assaults on civil liberties.

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

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