By Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian
Posted May 5, 2007
HARTLAND — After meeting with a handful of impeachment activists Saturday afternoon, Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT, agreed to co-host a statewide town meeting on the issue as early as next week.
The meeting is likely to be held in Hartland, Welch’s hometown, or somewhere nearby in the White River Junction area. The exact venue and time will largely depend on the expected turnout.
Hosting such a meeting was one of the request activists had of Welch during the brief meeting.
“We’re very happy about that,” said Jimmy Leas, a South Burlington attorney who met with Welch. “He hasn’t changed his position on impeachment but he does want o hear from Vermonters and we’re hoping that many hundreds of Vermonters will come out and express their view on why impeachment is needed. It will give Vermonters a chance to speak out and try to persuade Peter Welch to join other congressmen in submitting an impeachment resolution.”
Welch is cool to the idea of introducing a bill calling for impeachment investigations into Pres. George W. Bush and Vice Pres. Dick Cheney, or to even lend his name to a current bill authored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, that calls for such a probe of Cheney’s actions.
Despite his reluctance to push impeachment, Welch said he is open to hearing from Vermonters on the topic.
“I’m always happy to listen and I have enormous respect for the grassroots tradition in Vermont, and all three members voted against the war and the three of us now are leaders in trying to end this war,” said Welch. “The citizen activists who are promoting impeachment are in the fine tradition of outspoken Vermonters and as their representative I am delighted to meet with them and listen to them.”
Welch believes impeachment hearings in the House would rally GOP support to Bush at a time when it could be on the wane, especially in support of Bush’s war strategy.
“The first and foremost important issue in this country is the war in Iraq and every vote I take is based on whether I believe in my judgment it will hasten the end of the war or delay it,” said Welch. “I believe that continued, aggressive oversight and letting the facts go where they lead, along with the power of the purse are what it is going to take to end the war. Their view is impeachment is what you use to stop the war, and I believe it is the power of the purse.”
Welch earlier this year backed a bill to continue funding the war at $125 billion, but with the caveat that troops would be withdrawn in September 2008. Welch has said he will not support a war funding bill that does not include a timetable to withdraw troops from the region.
Welch, who serves on both the powerful Rules and the House Government Oversight and Reform committees, said he thinks the current investigations conducted by the latter panel need to run their course before impeachment charges are filed.
Welch said the current investigations on everything from the war to the firing of U.S. attorneys are potentially the beginning of further action, not the end. He said the current probes into the Bush administration are akin to the congressional investigations into the Nixon administration.
Liza Earle, of Richmond, who also attended the meeting, said she believes Welch and impeachment backers agree on the assessment of the Bush administration, but differ on tactical solutions.
“What we need to remember is that impeachment is not just about this war but holding accountable all future presidents and the wars they might start,” said Earle.
Newfane Selectman Dan DeWalt, who authored the first Town Meeting Day resolution in 2006, and Iraq War veteran Adrienne Kinne joined Earle and Leas at the meeting.
Welch met with four impeachment activists in White River Junction just hours before a party was being held in his honor in Brattleboro to mark his 60th birthday. The $75 per person party also served as a reelection fundraiser.
Impeachment activists were gathering this evening and plan to hold court outside of the party’s venue — the Riverwalk Café — with six people in a raft in the nearby Connecticut River and others singing songs and playing “pin the subpoena on Dick Cheney” a take-off on the children’s game “pin the tail on the donkey.”
A growing number of Vermonters have shown an increasing interest in pushing for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
On April 20, the state Senate voted 16-9 in favor of Congress launching an impeachment probe into Bush and Cheney’s actions. Less than a week later, the House defeated a similar measure 87-60.
Impeachment supporters were told they would not likely have more than two dozen supporters in the chamber, so they see the 60 votes as a victory.
Earlier this year, 40 towns — including Welch’s hometown of Hartland — passed resolutions calling on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. Seven towns last year passed similar resolutions.
During the House proceedings late last month, nearly 400 Vermonters representing 102 communities packed the State House to urge lawmakers to pass an impeachment resolution. House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, held a rare public session in the House chamber, giving impeachment supporters a chance to make their case publicly, and at times engaged them in a debate. Symington, like Welch, does not support impeachment.
Just days before the Senate vote, about 125 people met with Symington and Senate Pres. Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, and lobbied lawmakers.