U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said he supports a national effort calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, but stopped short of pledging to take action to back it.
"I've been supportive of that movement," said Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee that would lead impeachment hearings. "I encourage that nationwide."
But Conyers, who left a Detroit church before a town-hall meeting attended by a standing-room-only crowd of about 250 people, remained noncommittal about lending his official backing for impeachment proceedings. Conyers had also convened a separate town-hall meeting in Detroit on Tuesday evening to discuss high gas prices.
"The goal is whether to impeach or follow up on the defects and disabilities of an administration" that has shut out Congress, he said Tuesday.
Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, suggested Conyers was simply indulging old obsessions, adding, "It has no legs, it's gaining no support in Michigan, let alone nationally."
Anuzis cited the recent approval by Congress to fund the Iraq war, and he said there is serious analysis going on to determine how best to deal with the situation there.
"This is moving along the way it should in the normal course of action and I think that the Democrats in Congress that are a little more reasonable are working with the president," he said.
Speakers and audience members expressed frustration and disappointment Tuesday that Conyers did not return by the event's conclusion.
The town-hall meeting featured panelists who took questions from the audience. Behind the panel, a large sign bearing handwritten signatures hung endorsing impeachment proceedings.
On May 16, the Detroit City Council unanimously passed an impeachment resolution that claimed the two had conspired to defraud the public to justify the Iraq war. The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Monica Conyers, the Democratic congressman's wife.
Nationwide, more than 70 cities and 14 state Democratic parties have urged impeachment or investigations that could lead to impeachment.
"There's a lot growing in support," Tim Carpenter, director of the liberal group Progressive Democrats of America, told McClatchy Newspapers for a Tuesday story. "Whether Congress will respond, that's another question."
On the Judiciary Committee, Conyers has been criticized by Republicans for his vocal opposition to the White House's handling of the Iraq War. During the last session, when Republicans controlled Congress, he introduced a bill calling on lawmakers to determine whether there are grounds for impeachment over the government's warrantless wiretapping program.
But amid pressure from party leaders, Conyers has said that he does not intend to move forward with any impeachment effort.