Thursday, March 8, 2007

An Alternative Path to Impeachment

Now seems like a good time to bring this up. There is an obscure rule in the Jefferson's Manual that allows for articles of impeachment to originate outside the United States House of Representatives, and the climate is right for it to be invoked.

Jefferson's Manual, the established rules under which the House operates, allows for any one of the 50 state legislatures, no governor required, to request that impeachment proceedings be commenced against any member of the Executive branch.

In the House there are various methods of setting an impeachment in motion: by charges made on the floor on the responsibility of a Member or Delegate; by charges preferred by a memorial, which is usually referred to a committee for examination; by a resolution dropped in the hopper by a Member and referred to a committee; by a message from the President; by charges transmitted from the legislature of a State or territory or from a grand jury; or from facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House.
Now here is where it gets interesting.

In the past year state legislatures in four states (Vermont, Minnesota, California and Illinois) introduced, but failed to pass, resolutions to impeach. The Minnesota state senator who introduced the bill is none other than newly elected House member Keith Ellison. He is one of many sitting in the House right now biding time and waiting for the right moment to initiate impeachment. There will be a stampede of eager freshmen representatives from blue districts rushing toward the first Delegation up the Capitol steps with a passed resolution in hand.

New Mexico has been at the forefront of the Purge Scandal. New Mexico also has strong Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state house and an active and agitated electorate ready for oversight and accountability, every last one of them right now with steam coming out of their ears. New Mexico State Senator Gerald Ortiz y Peno is the guy to watch. (When he's the governor and a shining star in the national Democratic Party, remember, you heard it here first.)

Given the climate today, and the scandal of firing David Iglesias, don't be surprised if the New Mexico legislature passes the resolution. Once a resolution to impeach is passed by both chambers of any states legislature, any Representative can respond to the plea by acknowledging the states petition, and then the game is afoot. Once such a plea is acknowledged, Speaker Pelosi will then have no choice in the matter. Per the Jefferson's Manual, impeachment proceedings must start.

New Mexico is not alone in the effort to pass the resolution. New Jersey has a very strong grass-roots movement working to achieve introduction and passage of the resolution. Which state will get there first has been speculated on among political wonks and crystal-ball gazers for a couple of months now.

However, given the events of the last two weeks, New Mexico seems the most likely to emerge from the pack with a ratified resolution.