Friday, January 12, 2007

Impeachment--Let Us Review the Process.

Given the reception President Bush's people received on Capital Hill yesterday I thought it might be prudent to review the various avenues available to Congress for dealing with a President who has decided to send America's children to fight an unnecessary and unpopular war. Well, the Congress has the power of the purse. They can simply refuse to fund any war. That is what happened at the end of the Vietnam War. Some have argued that the public response to the video of Americans boarding choppers on the roof of the American embassy was the genesis of the modern Republican party. Democrats are loath to allow that scene to be replayed.

What other tool does the Constitution provide the Congress for a President who has moved beyond his popular mandate?

Yesterday, Condi Rice was treated very rudely by several Senators as she tried to promote the President's “New Way Forward.” As I recall at least two Senators referenced the Administration's numerous lies in response to Congressional inquiries as supporting their skepticism about the President's “New Way Forward." The President's talk about Iran especially troubled some. Senator Joe Biden went so far as to announce that if the President attempted to widen the war to Iran without specific Congressional authority, the President would provoke a Constitutional crisis.

Of course, the phrase “Constitutional crisis” brings the word “impeachment” immediately to mind. For those playing at home, let us review how the impeachment process begins. Article 1, Section 2, of the Constitution specifies that "the House of Representatives...shall have the sole power of impeachment." This means that it has the power to bring charges against President, Vice President, or cabinet members, such as Condi Rice. Such an impeachment process would normally start in the House Judiciary Committee. In the last congress the new Chairman John Conyers proposed H.Res.635 which called for the creation of a Select Committee to investigate various administration lies about Iraq, wiretapping and related matters, and to make recommendations about the sufficiency of evidence to support impeachment. If such a Select Committee were created, the House Judiciary Committee would consider any charges it might level and might adopt a resolution to conduct an "official inquiry." If that resolution passed the Judiciary Committee it would go to the House floor for a vote of the full house. An "official inquiry" resolution is considered a question of privilege so it has to be dealt with before any other business. If that resolution were passed by a majority vote, the Judiciary Committee would be directed to conduct an inquiry or investigation into the alleged crimes. Once the investigation is completed the Committee would draft and vote on Articles of Impeachment. The full House of Representatives would then debate and vote on each Article. If one of the Articles passed the official charged would now be officially impeached. The matter would then move on to the Senate for trial. Article 1, Section 3, United States Constitution. Elected Republicans would hold a prayer vigil on the steps of the Capital. Oh, sorry, Bush is not Clinton. His approval rating is about 27% so Republican Congress critters and Senators would probably skip the rally.

There, ladies and gentlemen, is the old way forward for any President who forgets he is working for the people.