Impeachment group continues to push lawmakers
By DANIEL BARLOW Vermont Press Bureau | April 18,2007
MONTPELIER — They will not take no for an answer.
More than 125 Vermonters from 56 communities congregated Tuesday at the State House and sought to pressure legislators from both chambers and of all political persuasions to act on a resolution calling for President Bush's impeachment this session.
The demonstration culminated with a testy and antagonistic 30-minute exchange with the state's top two Democrats, who impeachment supporters say are blocking the resolution from moving forward.
"You are breaking down a cornerstone of democracy," one woman accused Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, and House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, during a meeting in the Cedar Creek Room at the State House.
"If the Democratic Party won't listen to us, maybe we should just leave the party," yelled one man during the meeting.
Shumlin, who supports impeachment, and Symington, who does not, kept their cool during the exchange. But the two state Democratic leaders reiterated that a House resolution does not have the committee support to proceed and there is no longer time in the legislative session to pass a Senate resolution.
"I know I disappointed you," said Symington, adding that if the resolution made it to the House floor she would vote against it. "The resolution was sent to the Judiciary Committee, which has taken up other legislative priorities."
Shumlin, who represents the county where the state's grassroots impeachment effort began last year, offered a compromise Tuesday: He would sign and circulate among senators a letter addressed to U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., urging him to introduce an impeachment resolution in the U.S. House.
That option was booed down by the crowd.
"I take some responsibility for this and I apologize," said Shumlin, who has said supporters should have approached him early in the session to propose an impeachment resolution. "But I ask you to take some responsibility for where we are too."
Historian Howard Coffin was one of the impeachment supporters who gathered in Montpelier Tuesday. He told Shumlin and Symington that the crisis facing the United States today is "greater than the Civil War" and "larger than World War II."
Coffin said the cost of keeping the legislature in session for an additional week — estimated at upwards of $1 million — past the estimated session end date of May 5 is an option that should be considered.
"Our country is being run by a far right-wing government that threatens to destroy the world," Coffin said. "Spending the paltry sum of a million dollars to impeach the president would be well worth it."
Democratic leaders in Montpelier have been under pressure to vote on a resolution calling for Bush's impeachment for allegedly misleading the country into war, wiretapping without a warrant and other alleged misdeeds.
The local effort, which received a boost recently in Gary Trudeau's national "Doonesbury" comic strip, sprang out of Newfane, a rural community in Windham County that voted at town meeting last year to impeach Bush.
Since then, nearly 40 other towns have voted to impeach Bush and Vice President Cheney, and the Democratic State Committee last month voted to urge legislators to move on the impeachment resolution in this session.
"It's disingenuous for them to say they don't have time to vote on the resolution when just today the House listened to a member read two poems and then honor a school sports team," said Boots Wardinski, a landscaper from Newbury, referring to the House and Senate's tradition of voting on resolutions and recognitions when the bodies' convene.
Meanwhile, Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, one of the resolution's strongest supporters in the House, announced that he is considering proposing to pull the resolution out of chamber's Judiciary Committee to bring it to a floor vote.
But Zuckerman conceded the move, which would first need a simple majority vote to move the resolution, before debate on the actual issue could began, has rarely been successful.
"This is a last-resort move," he said. "And we're getting toward the last resort, although we are not there yet."
Contact Daniel Barlow at Daniel.Barlow@rutlandherald.com.