(Host) The Democratic state committee wants Congress to start impeachment proceedings against President Bush.
But at a weekend meeting, the committee heeded the advice of lawmakers and decided not to involve the Legislature in the impeachment debate.
VPR’s John Dillon was at the state committee meeting in Randolph, and has this report.
(Moderator) “All of those in favor of passage of the Rutland resolution as originally amended please signify by saying aye.”
(Moderator) “Those opposed. That carries apparently unanimously.”
(Dillon) In the end, the vote to request Congress to impeach the president was unanimously and passionately delivered.
But for almost three hours, Democrats wrestled with how to balance that passion with political pragmatism.
The original impeachment resolution adopted by the Rutland County Democratic Committee asked the Vermont Legislature to get involved in the impeachment effort.
The resolution cited an obscure provision in congressional rules that allows state lawmakers to send impeachment charges to Congress.
But a divided state committee decided to leave the Legislature out of it. They listened to the advice of Burlington Representative John Tracy, who implored Democrats to bypass Montpelier.
(Tracy) “If you send the legislation our way, we will deal with it. But what I would urge you to do is send the message directly to the people who you want to act on this.”
(Dillon) The Democratic State Committee was reacting to a grassroots movement that has swept through seven Vermont towns and at least eight county committees.
The impeachment resolutions accuse President Bush of ordering illegal wiretaps of Americans, of violating international treaties against torture, and lying as he led the country into the Iraq War.
Matthew Burgess of Morristown summarized some of the charges.
(Burgess) “The Bush Administration has deceived the people and our legal institutions regarding justification for war. They say lessons are being learned. I say we as a body should say these are lessons we can’t afford.”
(Dillon) But just how that message should be delivered is the issue that split the Democrats.
Party leaders clearly did not want the impeachment issue to land in the Statehouse. Anne Lezak of Mendon asked the committee to listen to its leadership.
(Lezak) “I do not support bringing this to our Democratic state legislature to wrangle with. I do think this will be a divisive diversion and will indeed actually not only probably get tangled up, but will not help us to elect more Democrats.”
(Dillon) Euan Bear of Bakersfield is vice chairwoman of the Franklin County Democratic Committee. She wanted the impeachment issue sent to Montpelier because she says that way it could actually have some impact.
(Bear) “It’s the only crowbar we have and otherwise we’re just a party, partisan group stamping our feet and yelling at the president. So I’m disappointed. I think we didn’t do anything that was unexpected. If we had sent it to the Legislature and asked them for action – that was the thing that would have caught attention and would have shown us really standing up.”
(Dillon) Jeff Taylor, who drafted the Rutland resolution, says he wasn’t disappointed that the state committee decided not to involve the legislature. Taylor is a lawyer who says he knows his impeachment issues well, since he used to work for the Justice Department under President Nixon.
Taylor said it’s too late in the legislative session to send the issue to the Statehouse.
(Taylor) “The party today bowed to the practical realities of getting this through the General Assembly. It’s way, way too late.”
(Dillon) The Vermont Democrat’s vote makes the state party the fifth in the country to ask Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against the president.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Randolph.