U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, wants to see the House impeach Vice President Dick Cheney. She also wants to investigate whether similar action should be taken against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
And she is not alone on either front.
The fifth-term congresswoman from south-central Wisconsin formally signed on this morning as a co-sponsor of House Resolution 333, the proposal by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, to begin impeachment proceedings against the vice president. Baldwin is the 16th member of the House to agree to co-sponsor the resolution, and she is the fourth member of the House Judiciary Committee to do so.
Baldwin also signed on to a resolution sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., calling on the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Gonzales should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. She is the 20th co-sponsor of that measure.
Despite the rising levels of support for both resolutions in recent weeks, impeachment is not just around the corner. The House has 435 members, half of whom would have to vote for impeachment in order to formally sanction the vice president. Even to get to a point where a full House vote might be a live prospect, the Judiciary Committee would have to take up the matter.
The committee has 40 members, and its chairman, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has been resistant to bringing up impeachment since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared last year that impeachment would be "off the table" in the new Congress.
In recent weeks, however, impeachment has moved back on to the table.
Kucinich introduced his articles of impeachment against Cheney in late April, saying at the time that he was doing so because "the vice president actively and systematically sought to deceive the citizens and Congress about an alleged threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He has purposely manipulated the intelligence process to deceive us about the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida. And he openly lied to the American people and has publicly threatened aggression against Iran."
Initially, only a handful of members agreed to co-sponsor the measure. But as frustration with the Bush-Cheney administration has grown, so too have the numbers of those determining that some action must be taken to hold the administration to account.
House members have expressed a number of reasons for backing impeachment of Cheney, including anger over allegations that the vice president took the lead in manipulating intelligence regarding Iraq, promoted illegal spying on Americans and defended the use of torture. Cheney's recent attempt to avoid scrutiny by claiming that the office of the vice president was not part of the executive branch added fuel to the fire. And then there was President Bush's decision to commute the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff and co-conspirator in moves to punish former Ambassador Joe Wilson for exposing the deceptions that led to war.
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Baldwin made no secret of her frustration with Bush and Cheney when she referred to the commuting of Libby's sentence as "a perversion of justice."
"The president told the American public that he would hold anyone in his administration involved in the Valerie Plame leak case accountable and now he is doing just the opposite. Time and again, this president's utter disregard for the rule of law proves him unworthy of the people's trust and the office he holds," said Baldwin, who is an attorney. "This decision is a shameful display of the cronyism and corruption that are disgraceful hallmarks of this Bush administration."
Last week, when she voted with a majority of the House Judiciary Committee to issue contempt citations for former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, following their refusal to comply with subpoenas issued in the U.S. attorney investigation, Baldwin declared: "It is the duty of the Congress - a co-equal branch of government - to serve as an effective check on possible abuses by the executive branch."
House Resolution 333 focuses on a number of these issues and an additional concern of Kucinich and Baldwin: the vice president's frequent suggestions that the U.S. might attack Iran.
"This House cannot avoid its constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of executive power," says Kucinich, who with Baldwin and the other co-sponsors of the impeachment resolution have been consistent foes of the war in Iraq.
The notion that Congress needs to restrain executive power appears to be gaining popularity.
According to recent polling by the American Research Group, 54 percent of Americans want Cheney impeached. Among Democrats, that number rises to 76 percent. A majority of self-described independents back action to hold the vice president to account, as do 17 percent of Republicans.
Local activists rallied on July 4 to call on Baldwin to support impeachment of Cheney, and have delivered petitions bearing thousands of signatures supporting the initiative to her office.
Baldwin is the first member of the Wisconsin congressional delegation to sign on as a co-sponsor of the resolutions to impeach Cheney and Gonzales. But others are feeling the heat. Impeachment activists have targeted Democratic and Republican House members with petitions, office visits and protests.
Today, in Washington, Kucinich accepted petitions bearing the names of more than 100,000 Americans calling on Congress to open impeachment hearings with regard to the vice president. John Nichols' new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"
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