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News | Welch delivers Vermont impeachment message to House floor

By Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian

Posted May 15, 2007

WASHINGTON — Vermont’s lone congressman took to the floor of the U.S. House today to update his fellow lawmakers on the growing sentiment in his home state to impeach Pres. George W. Bush and Vice Pres. Dick Cheney.

"With rising alarm, Vermonters have watched abuse of power and a disregard for checks and balances in Washington over the past six years. Vermonters have such extraordinary concern, particularly with the prosecution of the war in Iraq, that many are now calling for the president and vice president to be impeached,” said Welch.

"Impeachment is an extreme position, but it reflects the collective judgment of many Vermonters that believe it is necessary to alleviate extreme circumstances. Madame Speaker, I don't believe impeachment is the answer, but I endorse the indictment of the policies of the current administration." (full speech below)

While thankful, impeachment supporters believe Welch, and Democrats, are focusing too much on the fallout of an impeachment trial. Rather, they believe more aggressive investigations should occur into Bush and Cheney before Congress to be investigated.

"If Bush and Cheney remain immune from investigation they have free reign to continue this illegal war. By protecting Bush and Cheney from investigation Democratic Party leaders help keep this war going. The war will not end while this president and vice president remain immune from investigation,” said Leas.

Impeachment supporters say they will continue to raise awareness on the issue, and have invited Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, to Vermont to talk about his resolution, which calls for a probe into Vice Pres. Cheney’s actions.

“We invited Peter Welch to participate in that event with Dennis Kucinich so they can discuss with each other as colleagues the different views on ways to end the war,” said Leas.

Impeachment supporters are also going to turn their attention to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, in hopes that will investigate Bush and Cheney rather than the pair's “underlings,” Leas said.

“They have been very effective at investigating the underlings, and in fact they are so good at it that we’d like to take that one step further,” said Leas. Leahy, in particular, could play an important role because he is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“We know that the Senate cannot initiate impeachment, but we think they can investigate their actions, and that may help,” said Leas.

Two weeks ago, Welch met with a small group of impeachment advocates and agreed to hold a town hall-style meeting and then report to Congress on the effort in Vermont.

On May 12, Welch told impeachment advocates at the town hall meeting in Hartford that while he shared the outrage expressed by their motivation for impeachment, he disagrees with impeachment as a tactic.

Earlier this month, Welch told the Guardian he is cool to introducing a bill calling for impeachment investigations into Pres. Bush and Vice Pres. Cheney, or to even lend his name to the bill authored by Kucinich.

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.”

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.

Statement by Rep. Peter Welch on the Impeachment Effort in Vermont

May 15, 2007

"M. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks and that my full statement be submitted for the record. I rise to report on an effort in Vermont that honors the tradition of Vermonters speaking out on issues of conscience.

"Vermonters take public service, political integrity, and citizen involvement extremely seriously. This is a tradition that dates back to our earliest days when Vermont became the first state to ban slavery.

"With rising alarm, Vermonters have watched abuse of power and a disregard for checks and balances in Washington over the past six years. Vermonters have such extraordinary concern, particularly with the prosecution of the war in Iraq, that many are now calling for the President and Vice President to be impeached.

"Impeachment is an extreme position, but it reflects the collective judgment of many Vermonters that believe it is necessary to alleviate extreme circumstances. M. Speaker, I don't believe impeachment is the answer, but I endorse the indictment of the policies of the current Administration.

"What this nation has experienced over the past six years is staggering:

• A war in it's fifth year that was justified based on false intelligence;
• The politicization of our nation's top law enforcement agency;
• The cavalier disregard for civil liberties and constitutional protections;
• No bid war contracts to well-connected friends;
• The use of signing statements to disregard the law; and,
• The denial of habeas corpus for those in U.S. custody.

"The list could go on and on. These and other transgressions have caused some Vermonters to rise up and promote the use of impeachment to restore accountability and curb the abuse of power.

"This impeachment movement started last year in the town of Newfane, with a population of just 1,700, by Dan DeWalt, a selectman on the town board. After voting for their town clerk and tax collector, and voting whether to fund a village sidewalk project and the local school, the town then voted on a resolution for Congress to initiate impeachment of the President.

"The initiative that started in this one small southern Vermont town spread to 40 towns this past March voting to pass measures urging impeachment. My own hometown of Hartland joined this call. And I've spoken with my neighbors — farmers, teachers, doctors, and store owners- about their vote. What they share is an outrage about the conduct of this Administration and its prosecution of this unconscionable war.

"Last month, the Vermont General Assembly took up the issue. On April 20, the Vermont State Senate voted 16-9 in favor of Congress launching impeachment. While the Vermont House of Representatives defeated the resolution on April 25, it received 60 supportive votes. Nearly 400 Vermonters representing 102 of Vermont's 251 towns came to the State House that day to voice their views.

"And this past Saturday, I held a town hall meeting in Hartford to hear from 250 impeachment advocates for over two hours.

"I applaud these citizen activists who have acted in the Vermont tradition of taking a principled stand on issues of conscience. They raise valid concerns about the actions of this Administration and actions allowed to go unchecked by the previous Congress. They are right. The concerns they have are well founded.

"However, let me be clear: opinion is divided in Vermont about whether impeachment is the right remedy... And whether it is the right tactic. But what motivated this effort reflects a commonly shared view that this Administration has abused its power and pursued horribly misguided policies.

"M. Speaker, while I disagree impeachment is the remedy, I completely share the goal, which is to restore honest and just leadership to our government.

• Our oversight investigations have exposed the egregiously substandard care for recovering soldiers at Walter Reed. We heard about soldiers, still recovering from brain surgery, forced to wander the grounds of Walter Reed to find the outpatient care they needed.

• Congressional oversight has documented unacceptable accounts of political interference by the Bush Administration over sound global warming science. As we face the greatest global environmental, economic, and security challenge this world as ever faced, political appointees with no scientific background were editing scientific research with partisan pens.

• Our probes are uncovering waste, fraud, and abuse associated with the war in Iraq on an unimaginable scale, including pallets of cash- $12 billion in $100 bills- flown from the United States to Iraq and distributed on the back of pick-up trucks.

• And through our oversight and subpoenas, we are vigorously seeking to expose and investigate the peddling of faulty intelligence the Administration presented in their case for war. We must demand to know whether the Administration's active dissemination of bad intelligence was premeditated with the intention of deceiving the American people, or was it reckless and cavalier, done to justify a decision to go to war that had already been made?

"At every corner, step by step, Congress is methodically peeling back the layers of deception and deceit, holding this Administration accountable. We must get the facts and follow the facts. And that is exactly what is being done.

"M. Speaker, this pursuit of impeachment has consequences to real lives and real people.

I measure every decision I make here in Congress based on whether it will hasten or delay an end to this war. Nothing illustrates this urgency more than a phone call I received before a recent trip to Iraq. The call was from a mother in the town of Brattleboro who lost her son in this terrible war. She so desired closure over her son's death, that she asked to accompany me to Iraq so she could see where her son had died. It was a stark reminder that there is no greater challenge we face than ending this war.

"I also submit for the record a letter that was read at the Hartland town meeting from Lisa Johnson of Essex Jct. about the death in Iraq of her son Captain Pierre Piche'.

"I am proud of the Vermonters pushing for facts, prodding for accountability, and demanding oversight.

"As I travel around the state, meeting with Vermonters, I also hear a sense of optimism: it is the optimism that comes from Congress restoring the checks and balances that had for too long been lost and an optimism from seeing a Congress finally getting down to making progress with new priorities and a new direction for this country.

"Thank you M. Speaker."