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Times Argus (Vermont)

Impeachment Activists Grill Legislative Leaders

Daniel Barlow

MONTPELIER, Vt. - They will not take no for an answer.More than 125 Vermonters from 56 communities congregated at the Statehouse Tuesday and sought to pressure legislators from both chambers and of all political persuasions to act on a resolution calling for President Bush's impeachment this session.

The demonstration culminated with a testy and antagonistic 30-minute exchange with the state's top two Democrats whom impeachment supporters say are blocking the resolution from moving forward.0418 05

"You are breaking down a cornerstone of democracy," said one woman to Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, and House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho.

"If the Democratic Party won't listen to us, maybe we should just leave the party," yelled one man during the meeting.

Shumlin, who supports impeachment, and Symington, who does not, kept their cool during the exchange. But the two state Democratic leaders reiterated that a House resolution does not have the committee support to proceed and there is no longer time in this legislative session to pass a Senate resolution.

"I know I disappointed you," said Symington. She said that if the resolution makes it to the House floor she would vote against it. "The resolution was sent to the Judiciary Committee, which has taken up other legislative priorities."

Shumlin, who represents the county where the state's grassroots impeachment effort began last year, offered a compromise Tuesday: He would sign and circulate a letter among senators addressed to Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., urging him to introduce an impeachment resolution in the U.S. House.

That option was booed down by the crowd.

"I take some responsibility for this and I apologize," said Shumlin, who has said supporters should have approached him early in the session to propose an impeachment resolution. "But I ask you to take some responsibility for where we are, too."

Historian Howard Coffin was one of the impeachment supporters who gathered in Montpelier on Tuesday. He told Shumlin and Symington that the crisis facing the United States today is "greater than the Civil War" and "larger than World War II."

Coffin said the cost of keeping the Legislature in session for an additional week - estimated at upwards of $1 million - past the estimated session end date of May 5 is an option that should be considered.

"Our country is being run by a far right-wing government that threatens to destroy the world," Coffin said. "Spending the paltry sum of a million dollars to impeach the president would be well worth it."

Democratic leaders in Montpelier have been under pressure to vote on a resolution calling for Bush's impeachment for allegedly misleading the country into war, wiretapping without a warrant and other alleged misdeeds.

The local effort sprang out of Newfane, a rural community in Windham County that voted at town meeting last year to impeach Bush.

Since then, nearly 40 other towns have voted to impeach Bush and Vice President Cheney, and the Democratic State Committee last month voted to urge legislators to move on the impeachment resolution in this session.

"It's disingenuous for them to say they don't have time to vote on the resolution when just today the House listened to a member read two poems and then honor a school sports team," said Boots Wardinski, a landscaper from Newbury.

© 2007 Times Argus

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