RANDOLPH, Vt. – The Democratic State Committee on Saturday voted to urge the U.S. Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush, but decided against asking the Vermont Legislature to join that call.
Margaret Lucenti, a committee member from Montpelier, said the president had misled the country into war, conducted illegal electronic spying on Americans and violated international torture treaties.
"I would hope that any one of these infractions would bring the administration down... We need to restore accountability in our federal government," she said.
Adoption of the resolution calling for impeachment proceedings makes Vermont's the fifth state Democratic party committee to take such action, following New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin, state party officials said.
The roughly 45 Democrats who attended the meeting decided against a portion of a resolution adopted by the Rutland County Democratic Committee that would have had the Vermont Legislature use an obscure provision in U.S. House rules to transmit a message calling for Bush's impeachment to Congress.
Michael Inners, of Grand Isle, said the rule cited by the Rutland committee actually was not part of the original "Jefferson's Manual" that's incorporated into U.S. House rules. He said the language cited by the Rutland committee was part of a parliamentarian's notes interpreting the rules.
While the question of the Legislature's involvement divided those at the meeting, there appeared to be no disagreement that the president's conduct warranted impeachment. Formal deliberations and voting were open only to the 49 members of the state committee, but an hour-long public comment period at the beginning of the meeting drew some of the most impassioned remarks.
"This president we have is the only president in the history of the United States to have actually admitted while in office committing an impeachable offense," said Randy Bright of Montpelier.
Bright said the stakes were huge. "Do we continue as a representative democracy?" he asked. "Do we continue with three pillars, with checks and balances" between the branches of government.
James Barnett, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, said the Democrats' action "demonstrates that leaders of the Vermont Democratic Party are among the most extreme in the nation to have taken this rather radical and highly partisan step."
Barnett said legislative and other Democratic leaders who wanted to keep the issue out of the Legislature were worried that they and their congressional candidate, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Welch, would be forced to take a position on the impeachment measure.
"I think there's good reason why they didn't pass the Rutland resolution. They didn't want their legislative candidates to have to take a stand and go on record with a vote," Barnett said.
Saturday's special meeting was called by the Democratic committee after party committees in at least eight counties passed a form of the Rutland resolution calling for the Vermont Legislature to get involved in the impeachment effort.Rep. John Tracy, of Burlington, urged fellow Democrats to skip the stop at the Vermont Legislature and go straight to Congress.
"You should send the message directly to the people who have to act on it... cut out the middleman," he said.
The vote on the resolution calling for Bush's ouster followed rejection of an amendment that would have added the name of Vice President Dick Cheney as also warranting impeachment. While there appeared to be strong disapproval of his performance in office, several speakers noted that the resolution before the group cited several "high crimes and misdemeanors" allegedly committed by Bush for which there was insufficient evidence to implicate the vice president.
Rejection of the amendment adding Cheney came after Billie Gosh, a Vermont member of the Democratic National Committee urged the group to limit the resolution to Bush. "Let's keep it crisp. Let's keep it clear. Let's focus on the target," she said.