Vermont Senate OKs Bush, Cheney Impeachment Resolution

Citing "serious questions of constitutionality" in White House actions, Vermont senators voted Friday to call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

With no debate, the Senate voted 16-9 in favor of the resolution, the ayes all coming from Democrats. Three Democrats and all six Republicans in the chamber at the time voted against it.

"I think it's going to have a tremendous political effect, a tremendous political effect on public discourse about what to do about this president," said impeachment supporter James Leas, a vocal advocate of withdrawing from Iraq and of impeaching Bush and Cheney.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, who engineered Friday's vote, said the resolution reflected what he believes is the sentiment of Vermonters. That's why he used a parliamentary maneuver that nearly guaranteed the resolution would fly through the Senate with no debate.

"We all know there isn't a president of the United States who deserves impeachment more than George Bush," said Shumlin, D-Windham. "How many speeches to you need to make the point?"

Sen. William Doyle, Republican leader, said the resolution should have been referred to the Judiciary Committee but he did not object even though he knew the move was coming. "I kind of knew what the result would be," Doyle said.

Some Democrats sided with the Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Sears, D-Bennington, who said the Legislature was the wrong forum for the issue. "I thought there was a better way to deal with this," Sears said.

Early in their session, Vermont lawmakers became the first to demand the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. But activists have been frustrated in their demands for a resolution calling for impeachment.

Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, has ensured that a House impeachment resolution remains bottled up in the Judiciary Committee.

She says an impeachment resolution would be partisan and divisive and distract Washington from efforts to get the United States out of Iraq, which she says is more important.

Shumlin has said he supports impeachment, but was hamstrung because Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, a Republican who presides over the Senate, would likely bury a Senate resolution in committee.

But Dubie was absent on Friday and — with Shumlin in charge — the resolution was taken up as one of the first items of business. Many senators were surprised it was being considered; there was no effort to derail it, though.

"I think it's fantastic," Leas said. "This is a great achievement and Peter Shumlin deserved a lot of credit for listening to the people, listening to his conscience and taking action."

Nonbinding resolutions favoring impeachment passed in more than three dozen communities at town meetings last month, which Shumlin said supports the Senate's action. "Forty towns passed impeachment resolutions. The supporters of impeachment, whom I am among, made an extremely compelling case that the Senate should move forward with its own resolution," he said.

The Senate resolution is not specific in its complaints, but says Bush and Cheney "have exercised the duties of their respective offices with respect to both domestic and foreign affairs in ways that raise serious questions of constitutionality, statutory legality, and abuse of the public trust."

The resolution mentions the war in Iraq and says the administration's "domestic leadership on issues relating to individual privacy and personal liberty under law has raised constitutional issues of the greatest concern to the nation's citizenry."

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is asked in the resolution to introduce a resolution in Congress initiating impeachment.