Friday, June 20, 2008


John Hall responds about impeachment

When Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made his latest proposal of articles of impeachment against King George, I wrote my congressman, John Hall (D-NY). Representative Hall’s office responded fairly quickly (within a day or two), with a detailed reply. It’s canned, to be sure — a staffer surely scanned my message, said, “Ah, pro-impeachment,” and, with a couple of mouse clicks, sent me their standard pro-impeachment response.

Still, I’m pleased to have gotten a response, and I’m pleased that they have taken the trouble to have a detailed response ready to send. I might have gotten a content-free “Thank you for participating in the democratic process,” message, which I’ve received from members of congress in the past. (And, while I also sent a message to Nancy Pelosi’s Speaker-of-the-House mailbox, I’ve seen no reply from her office at all.)

Here is Representative Hall’s reply:

June 13, 2008

Dear Mr. Leiba,

Thank you for contacting me regarding your desire to see impeachment charges brought against Members of the Bush Administration. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this important Constitutional issue.

The Bush-Cheney Administration has led our country in the wrong direction and it will take years for us to recover from the damage it has done to our country and to our reputation around the world. The list of its transgressions and mistakes is a long one. The Bush-Cheney Administration took us into a devastating war in Iraq based on misleading statements and false information, has undermined the criminal justice system, weakened Constitutional protections for U.S. citizens, and created staggering federal deficits with its misplaced priorities and reckless federal spending. It has condoned the use of torture and illegal wiretapping, and attacked the Constitutional separation of powers.

Congress has a responsibility to hold the Bush-Cheney Administration accountable and to investigate the Administration’s abuses of power and their root sources. We must thoroughly look into the process leading up to the invasion of Iraq and the way in which the American people and the Congress were misled.

To these ends, I have co-sponsored the following legislation since I came to the House of Representatives in January 2007:

—H. Res. 417 to express no confidence in former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

—H. Res. 530 to censure President Bush for his role in revealing the identity of a covert CIA employee and for commuting the sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

—H. Res. 625 to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for misleading the American people about the basis for war in Iraq.

—H. Res. 626 to censure President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for ignoring federal statute, the Constitution, and undermining the separation of powers.

—H. Res. 689 to call on the President to urge full cooperation from former political appointees in ongoing Congressional investigations.

—H.R. 3045 to void any signing statements by the President.

—I strongly support Chairman Conyers’ effort to hold former Administration officials in contempt for refusing to testify in ongoing Congressional hearings.

I vehemently opposed the legislation, S. 1927, passed by both chambers of Congress in August to expand the government’s ability to listen in on foreign conversations, without approval of the special court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). However, the House has recently passed H.R. 3773 to fix the mistakes in S. 1927-including greater court oversight of wiretapping and improved protections for the rights of Americans.

I believe that I was elected in 2006 by voters who urgently want change in Washington, and an end to the disastrous Bush-Cheney policies. Clearly much remains to be done, however in the past year the House has passed important legislation that includes: A fiscal 2008 budget plan with new controls to ensure fiscal responsibility; homeland security measures proposed by the 9/11 Commission, such as broader screening of cargo bound for the United States, more support for cities at high risk of attack, and improved communications systems for emergency workers so they can better coordinate during an attack or natural disaster; meaningful ethics and lobbying reforms; a far-reaching energy package designed to wean America off its dependence on oil; improvements to child health insurance coverage for low-income families; the first minimum wage increase in a decade; a measure allowing broader stem cell research; and legislation to help students handle soaring college costs and to crack down on misconduct in the student loan industry. I will continue to work as long and hard as it takes to see all of these measures become law despite opposition from the White House.

I understand why many people believe that impeachment of Vice President Cheney or President Bush would be justified, but I do not believe that our country should be put through an impeachment proceeding at this time. Further, it is apparent that no article of impeachment would result in a conviction in the Senate. The process would be extremely disruptive to efforts to pass substantive legislation to block further abuses by the Bush-Cheney Administration and efforts to pass legislation to help solve problems for American families.

On Nov. 6, 2007, I voted with a majority of the House to send H. Res. 799-a resolution outlining articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney, to the Judiciary Committee to consider. Although I share many Americans’ deep frustration with the actions of the Bush Administration, taking this resolution directly to the House floor bypassed the Judiciary Committee and would have subverted procedures for introducing impeachment findings. I believe this would have created a dangerous precedent for future Congresses. In addition, the resolution itself cited actions which, while outrageous, do not meet the Constitutional standard for impeachment of “treason, high crimes or misdemeanors.”

A number of House Committees including Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform have launched continuing investigations and oversight hearings into the activities of the Bush-Cheney Administration and dramatically increased accountability, which was completely lacking in the previous Republican-led Congress. As these investigations proceed, Congress must take strong action to address illegal conduct.

Again, thank you for contacting me. If I can be of any further assistance in the future please do not hesitate to let me know.

Sincerely,John HallMember of Congress

OK, he spends most of the letter telling what he’s done in the area of reining the administration in. The two key paragraphs, though, are the ones near the end — the one beginning with “I understand why many people believe that impeachment of Vice President Cheney or President Bush would be justified,” and the one after that.

In those paragraphs, Representative Hall makes these significant points:

  1. We should not put the country through an impeachment proceeding.
  2. It’ll never get through the Senate anyway.
  3. It would get in the way of other things that we’re working on to stop the abuses of power.
  4. Representative Kucinich didn’t follow the right process. That leaves us open to impeachment abuse in the future.
  5. Some of the articles described things that were “outrageous”, but not outrageous enough.

Most of those are red herrings — it’s never a good time to put the country through it, but when it’s needed, it’s needed; even if it fails in the Senate, it will have made the statement that has to be made about accountability and acceptance of abuse of power; the proper process was blocked by the Democratic leadership, and it’s neither unprecedented nor improper for him to take it to the floor; even if not all of the articles are outrageous enough on their own, enough are, and the whole thing is in the aggregate.

But there’s one argument there, number 3, that I put in bold, that has a new spin to me — that is worth thinking about.

Yes, I’ve heard the argument before that impeachment would be a distraction from real work; that’s not what’s new. What’s new is the claim that Congress is doing stuff to address and redress the abuses of power — stuff that will actually succeed, more than any impeachment trial would — and that impeachment proceedings will derail those efforts.

I have to think about that, and look at what it is they’re doing. I’m not yet convinced. But Congressman Hall has given me something new to think about.

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