WASHINGTON (November 7, 2007) - The floor of the U.S. House of Representatives came alive yesterday when House Resolution (HR) 799, submitted by Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney for high crimes and misdemeanors came up for a vote. What ensued thereafter came as a surprise to many politicians, and those involved in the process.
Steny Hoyer, southern Maryland's U.S. Representative and House Majority Leader, quickly moved to open a vote to table the bill. Tabling the bill would essentially kill it.
Despite a July poll by the American Research Group that shows Americans favor impeachment of Cheney by a 54-40 split and impeachment of President Bush by 45-46 split, the Democratic
leadership has repeatedly stated that impeachment is "off the table." Political analysts say that the Democratic leadership is playing politics and is afraid that impeachment proceedings would damage their chances of election in the upcoming 2008 presidential race.
As the electronic vote to table HR 799 was underway, the tallies began to flip. In the end, many Republicans changed their votes to kill the motion to table the bill, thus ensuring that the bill would not die. It was widely expected that Republicans would have no interested in proceeding with impeachment of a Republican Vice President.
Immediately after the vote to table the bill failed, Hoyer moved to hold a vote to decide if yet another vote should be taken to send the bill to the Judiciary Committee for more discussion. Sending it back to committee would free the House from having to vote on the actual issue of impeachmentat least for the time being.
In the end, both votes passed and HR 799 has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee. The committee is chaired by John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI).
Conyers issued a statement later that day. "The committee has a very busy agenda - over the next two weeks, we hope to pass a FISA bill, to vote on contempt of Congress citations, pass legislation on prisoner re-entry, court security and a variety of other very important items. We were surprised that the minority was so ready to move forward with consideration of a matter of such complexity as impeaching the Vice President. The Chairman will discuss today's vote with the committee members but it would seem evident that the committee staff should continue to consider, as a preliminary matter, the many abuses of this Administration, including the Vice President," wrote Conyers in the prepared statement.
Political Analysts developed two theories for the move by Republicans. Some say that Republicans believe talk of impeachment of either the President or Vice President will politically damage the Democratic Party. Keeping the bill alive would give it publicity towards that very end.
Yet other analysts believe that the move was reverse psychology. Republicans, fearing any earnest impeachment proceedings, wanted to reinforce the Democrats views that talk of impeachment would be damaging to their party.
Hoyer quickly released a prepared statement after the votes were over, giving credence to the analyst's view that there was a
significant amount of political maneuvering afoot when addressing the issue of impeachment.
"I am surprised that Republicans would treat an issue as important as the potential impeachment of a Vice President of the United States as a petty political game. It is beneath the dignity of this institution," wrote Hoyer in the prepared statement. "This is a continuation of Republicans' gotcha games that achieve nothing more than short term entertainment for themselves, while showing their disdain for the importance of the people's business.
Hoyer concluded by reiterating the Democratic Leadership's opposition to any impeachment. "Speaker Pelosi and I have made it clear that this Congress is not going to proceed with impeachment, and is going to focus on critical issues facing our nation such as health care for children and the war in Iraq."
Despite Hoyer's claim that ending the war in Iraq is a priority, there has been little apparent progress by Democrats towards that goal. Even though Democrats don't have enough votes to override a presidential veto (60 votes are required in the Senate), critics say that Democrats are stopping way short of playing hardball.
Today, Kunich was asking citizens to email him at impeachment (at) kucinich.us with their opinions about his attempts to impeach Cheney. He promised that he would deliver the messages to the Judiciary Committee to demonstrate support for the measure in the hopes that the bill would not simply fade away.
H.RES.799, Impeaching Richard B. Cheney, Vice President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors
Kucinich Statement on Privileged Resolution