WASHINGTON – House Democrats, responding to Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that his office is exempt from certain U.S. national security disclosure requirements, said Tuesday they will try to strip some of his funding.
A Cheney spokeswoman said the Democrats were just playing politics.
The proposal could come up Thursday as an amendment to an annual spending bill, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat.
Cheney set off protests from Democrats when he declared that his office was exempt from sections of a presidential order that executive branch offices provide data on how much material they classify and declassify.
The White House said the order was not intended to treat either the president's or the vice president's office as an executive branch "agency." Only Cheney's office, however, has declined to comply with the order's requirements.
"Now, do I think that they've been handling intelligence with due care and respect? Yes, you bet," said White House spokesman Tony Snow.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat and sponsor of the amendment, noted that five years ago Cheney claimed executive privilege in refusing to release details about his meetings with oil industry executives to discuss energy policy.
"Now when we want to know what he's doing as it relates to America's national security in the lead-up to the war in Iraq and after the fact, the vice president has declared he is a member of the legislative branch."
Therefore, Emanuel said, "we will no longer fund the executive branch of his office and he can live off the funding for the Senate presidency." The vice president presides as president of the Senate.
Snow said that the argument relating to the energy policy discussions was different, that the meetings brought in people from outside government who therefore were not required to make their activities and deliberations public.
Emanuel's office said his amendment would restrict money for the vice president's office but did not contain a specific monetary cut.
Hoyer, asked if the amendment would pass, said, "I don't know about that." But he said "we shouldn't fund him in both branches. I think there's going to be consideration of an amendment and that will be discussed."
Megan McGinn, a spokeswoman for the vice president's office, said Emanuel "has a choice he can make: either deal with the serious issues facing our country or continue to play partisan politics."