Symington allows impeachment vote

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(Host) House Speaker Gaye Symington has changed her mind and will allow lawmakers to vote on a resolution that supports the impeachment of President Bush.

Symington says she still opposes the resolution.

But she says she wants the issue decided so the legislature can turn its attention back to matters affecting the state.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The pressure has been building on the Speaker since last Friday, when the Senate quickly passed its own impeachment resolution.

Activists were frustrated that Symington would not let the House debate the issue. Now she says members will get that chance on Wednesday.

(Symington) “My initial concern had been that the House has important work to get done. The Legislature has important work to get done and that we need to stay focused there. It’s clear to me that we cannot get back to that focus until we resolve this issue.”

(Dillon) The House resolution is identical to the one that passed the Senate. It urges the state’s congressional delegation to ask the U.S. House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment proceedings.

Impeachment activists say that efforts to remove the president can start in state legislatures. They cite a manual on parliamentary procedures written by Thomas Jefferson in 1801 that says states can refer impeachment proceedings to the U.S. House.

But David Zuckerman, a Burlington Progressive who supports impeachment, says this resolution will not have that legal impact.

(Zuckerman) “That’s one of the unfortunate aspects of the Senate language is that it does not carry the same legal precedent with the Jeffersonian manual references. However, it is a pretty clear message. It’s obviously been heard around this country and even around the world just from the Senate passage without the details of what the specifics were. And I think that’s what’s important is that overall a clear message – that we believe this president ought to be investigated for impeachment hearings.”

(Dillon) Symington says the resolution sends the wrong message. She says she disagrees with the President on many issues, but she feels that an impeachment debate in Congress would be politically polarizing. Instead, she says she favors the investigation and oversight approach taken by the Democratically controlled Congress.

(Symington) “The path to follow in my opinion is the path the current new Congress is following, which is one of holding this administration accountable for what they’ve done and for finding out what they’ve done and getting the truth out to Americans.”

(Dillon) House Republicans Hartland Representative Steve Adams is the leader of the House Republicans. He says a debate on impeachment is inevitable given the support it has around the state.

(Adams) “If we’re going to do it, let’s just do it and have it done with so that we can move on with the business that we have still before us in these last couple of weeks.”

(Dillon) Democrats say they don’t know if they have enough votes to pass the impeachment resolution.

But activists say they’ll come to the statehouse on Wednesday to try to change a few minds.

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

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