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January 25, 2006

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View larger image Let's start with a prescient The State of the Union address, to get you in the mood , and move right along to an excellent editorial entitled Bush the Incompetent -- catchy. For those of us... [Read More]

» Keeping an eye on things from Dakota
View larger image Let's start with a prescient The State of the Union address, to get you in the mood , and move right along to an excellent editorial entitled Bush the Incompetent -- catchy. For those of us... [Read More]

» Keeping an eye on things from Dakota
View larger image Let's start with a prescient The State of the Union address, to get you in the mood , and move right along to an excellent editorial entitled Bush the Incompetent -- catchy. For those of us... [Read More]

» A Glimmer Of Hope from The Funny Farm
Tuesday, 30 Premise 2006 For some, this might be somewhat of a ray of sunshine cheering up your dreary end of Premise blues: Susie wrote a post about The Next Hurrah finding a post from Constant Pated on a way of having some additional voices (besides ... [Read More]

Comments

AAUUUGGGHH!!!! You forgot ... Puerto Rico!

And just when Armando was starting to mellow out.

Damn! First Poland, now Puerto Rico! Anything with a P, pretty much.

Anybody got numbers on Puerto Rico, or is Armando the only one who counts?

I am all for the idea, but why does Rhode Island have 75 legislators?

That's nothing! New Hampshire has 400! I believe that's one state House member for every 3,000 people in the state.

You can't swing a dead cat in that state without hitting a state legislator. And there's a fairly good chance the cat might be one, too.

Right on Kagro X.
Thanx for the props too.
Madly I do.
Peacebaby.

And now I know why I'm still awake at 3-30 a.m...that is some amazing resarch. I would like to see a state send a letter of impeachment to Congress.

Brilliant work Kagro! Seems to me that Vermont would be the best choice, given its maverick-type reputation. Jeffords and/or Sanders jumping on board for PR would add traction to the effort.

Will it work? Who knows? But we need to believe that it's better to try something that CAN work, instead of citing low probability of success as the reason for not even making the effort.

A lack of drive for real change is exactly what the neocon motherf***ers that have hijacked our country are counting on to allow their nefarious mission to continue.

We need to make noise any way we can.

Peace - JP

It does not lose its privilege from the fact that a similar proposition has been made at a previous time during that same session of Congress, previous action of the House not.

(Those crazy revolutionaries.) What does this sentence mean? I'm sure I'm misreading it, but it sounds like a state can essentially launch a denial-of-service attack on the House, sending it so many impeachment doodads that no other House business can be conducted. But that can't be right..., can it?

As to which state, it has come to pass in the modern age that Vermont and Massachusetts are laughingly dismissed as pinko gay yadda yaddas. Which is kinda why you picked them to begin with, actually. But a more purply state with solid Dem leg & Dem gov might have other advantages. My real answer though is, Massachusetts on Monday, Vermont on Tuesday, Rhode Island Wednesday, Hawaii Thursday....

Well, that sentence doesn't mean anything. You would need the ending: ...affecting it.

What it appears to mean is that Members of the House itself may launch such an attack, either by directly proposing impeachment of their own volition, or by memorializing a state petition. Or for that matter, by moving the consideration of any of the other methods by which such charges might arise, among which are included: a message from the President himself (presumably relating to the impeachment of someone else); a message from a grand jury; from facts developed and reported by an investigating committee of the House; or even "appearing through common fame."

So, technically, any Member of the House can just start this by saying, "Hey, I read in the New York Times that the administration was spying. I move we impeach..." But we aren't likely to see that. It would surely require something with greater weight to move a Member to this sort of action, and a message from their home state legislature just might do the trick.

But, yes, it appears to me that what the sentence means is that so long as there are Members in good standing who are willing to move the issue directly, the Parliamentarian will have his hands full. Presumably, decorum and collegial comity have thus far prevented (at least in recent memory) from doing so.

It certainly couldn't hurt, though, to have more than one state send such a message. I think it provides both a compelling storyline (which would be missing from, say, the motion of a single Member on her own initiative) and some amount of political cover for the Members making the motion -- they're "under instruction" from the legislatures of their home states.

Very 1776, you know? Who could argue with the implications of strict federalism? (Take that, states' right-ers!)

What about New Jersey? You wouldn't need a veto-proof majority there, since the governor is democrat. Rush Holt could present it to the House.

Gaming out the denial-of-service scenario, one Republican defense would be to select the most premature and most easily defended resolution and pass it.

This would create a great to-do in the Senate, where a trial would necessarily follow and Bush would be acquitted. After one or more bites of this apple, impeachment (and its proponents) would become subjects of public derision, and the Prez would be effectively immunized.

intriguing, RonK, but it seems that even passing one would not dismiss them from having to deal with all the others ("previous action of the House not affecting it"). Seems silly to vote yes on one resolution for impeachment and then vote down all the others. No idea how this works once it goes to the Senate -- obviously they wouldn't really conduct a separate trial for every resolution would they?

Kagro, I had another question for you, from your last response it sounded as if the impeachment resolution had to be introduced by a member of the House. From your post up top though I was reading it could be "transmitted" (?) directly by a state (or territory) legislature, which I was reading to mean even without cooperation of any member of the House. Clear it up for me?

Another dumb question -- what the hell is Washington DC (is it a territory, does it have a legislature)?

I'll drop a reminder here of my case for the Framers intent toward minor and retroactive impeachments, and of exercising such impeachments to nullify presidential pardons. (here and here and here)

Otherwise, presidents enjoy wide latitude to conspire against the public interest, run out the clock on Impeachment during their term of office, and pardon their accomplices at end-of-term.

Typepad hiccups unfortunately resulted in loss of some very helpful reader commentary on this score in the third segment -- including one cite of prior analysis along similar lines.

pockets -- Public blowback would rapidly become overwhelming.

One kink in the hide-in-plain-sight defense, from Jefferson's Manual: So, also, propositions relating to an impeachment already made are privileged, such as resolutions providing for selection of managers of an impeachment, proposing abatement of impeachment proceedings, reappointing managers for impeachment proceedings continued in the Senate from the previous Congress, empowering managers to hire special legal and clerical personnel and providing money for their payment, and replacing an excused manager....

The DNS attack could theoretically go on forever. In effect, a House filibuster.

It still takes an act of the House to formally impeach the president. The charges transmitted by the state legislatures would, in essence, merely be a request that they do so. But it's one that brings with it a different set of dynamics than one initiated directly by a Member.

Washington, D.C. is a D. District. It has a city council, but only by grant of special permission from Congress, which would otherwise administer the District directly through a standing committee.

Vermont for sure. Lots of "keep the government out of our lives" folks in VT. Hell, half the state doesn't have paved roads. Very low infrastructure. Effectively keeps out Wal-mart except outside of large metropolitan cities. Green Mountain Boys.

Hell, I guess it's time for New England to save our country once again!

Sort of O/T, Kagro, but still along impeachment lines.


Suppose Rep. Shays and a group of like-minded Republicans here (Ron Paul for one) wanted to form a "third-way" coalition to guarantee impeachment proceedings, while at the same time remain Republicans.

The scenario I envison plays out in early 2007 during the opening of the new Congress. Assume the dems have made some gains in the 2006 election, but still don't have an outright majority.

Since the vote for speaker is open-ended and need not follow along party lines (and in fact, one need not vote for a Member for Speaker either), could a Shays/Paul bloc strike an agreement with dems, merely for impeachment purposes, to vote for a mutually acceptable candidate for Speaker, with the understanding that such Speaker would then give the coaltion members plum chairmanship positions (say, especially judiciary where impeachment proceedings would be held), effectively insulating them from R blowback.

Could this not work? Is it not the case that the Speaker makes chairmen and ranking member appointments (usually with the counsel of the majority and minority leaders, but he/she doesn't necessarily have to listen to them, no?).

OF course one flaw in such a plan is that the Republicans' majority would still entitle them to majorities on all the relevant committes, so I guess if the Republicans didn't like their committee chair's decisions, they could overrule by majority vote. But, if the majority in the House is razor thin, shouldn't that only translate to a 1 seat majority on the committee which could be fulfilled by making the Chairman a Repbulican (of course from the third way coalition)? Or does the chair not vote in such motions?

Anyway, pie-in-the-sky, I know. But is there historical precedent for the speaker to be from the minority party?

Practically, I know this is political suicide. But if Shays, Paul, et al, were really serious about impeachment, they could insulate themselves from blowback by making sure they got the good committee assignments.

KX -- State legislatures go out of session for months and months at a stretch.

Anybody have schedule info handy for our favorite states?

Rhode Island would be my first, second, and maybe third choices, followed by Vermont. Rhode Islanders have been mavericks from colonial days. They're radical egalitarians. They have little respect for authority, and they hate, detest, loathe, really don't like abuse of power. They love to tear pretentious bastards down.

This was the state that basically started the American Revolution with the Gaspee incident, long before the other colonies were ready to take on the Crown directly. (The Brits were so afraid of the Rhode Islanders that they just backed off from confrontation.)

RI is definitely the place to start a fight with Bush. It's not just the strength of the Dem Party, or Bush's extremely low popularity. It's their willingness to pick a fight with authority. If there were a state-by-state poll regarding the NSA spying, I'd bet Rhode Islanders hate it about as much as anybody.

Grew up in RI, so I think I understand the character of the state. Have also lived for a few years in Vermont. There too people cherish independence of thought. But Vermonters are much less confrontational than Rhode Islanders. When I was there, for example, there was still a McCarthy-era loyalty oath required of all faculty hired at state universities. The ACLU had been trying to challenge it for years, but they hadn't found any credible plaintiff to challenge it. In Rhode Island, people would have been lined up for blocks to join that fight. (Oh, and I refused to sign it, and UVM backed down rather than pick a fight.)

Rhode Island just started their new session, and are in fact going full-time.

Massachusetts is full-time.

Vermont also appears to have just started its session.

Does "full time" refer to pay? Or to continuous sessions?

I like the sound of RI, which also has a hot Senate race.

I believe it's continuous sessions they're talking about.

I rarely have reason to believe Shays is serious about anything except Shays.

Has there ever been a Speaker from the minority party? I don't know. I don't think so.

The power behind committee assignments are the "steering and policy" committees of each party, on which party leadership usually sits ex officio, and to which the Speaker may make recommendations, but I think the days of his power to directly appoint Members to committees and name chairmen are over with.

For such a plan to be fully workable, you'd have to have the complicity of the steering committees, and I can't see how that would happen in the current climate.

This probably refers to impeachment of a judge. I guess your dreams of "President Cheney" will have to wait.

Why choose?

Vermont and Rhode Island could jointly make the request, or each forward their own requests. Preferably, they'd spread it out for a bit so that when the media circus around the first request began to die down, a second could be sent.

But if I had to choose, I'd go for Rhode Island. Just to wind Chafee up even more.

Kagro--

Thanks for the background on the "steering committees" I figured that there was a layer of bureaucracy in between, so I guess you're right.

The other possibility is that the Speaker does have power by his or her own self to determine when legislation will come up to a floor vote and what the legislative schedule is, so even if they can't rig the committees initially, might not a coalition-endorsed speaker be able to use this power as a bargaining chip for committee assignments?

I guess what I'm trying to get at, is if the majority party really does have control over nearly all the House administration anyway, why bother with the Speaker vote anyway? Is the Speaker now just largely a ceremonial position, or does he/she have real power to defy the majority leadership? The fact that it is not a requirement that the Speaker be from the majority party makes me think that the Framers intended it to be a somewhat autonomous position, not beholden just to party interests.

Let me step out of politeness mode for a moment and just say that the "President Cheney" silliness is perhaps the stupidest objection I've yet heard to impeachment -- and I've probably heard it two dozen times or more already. Anybody who thinks impeachment doesn't and shouldn't reach Cheney and a goodly number of other federal officials is, frankly, probably smoking crack.

There hasn't been another administration in history in which the necessity of purging the entire slate has been more imperative. And if you think I'd be heartbroken by having President Hastert preside over a hobbled Republican Party and a Congress that was just shamed into erasing an entire administration from the history books, you're even loopier than I thought.

As to the other points, in no particular order:

1) No, there's no reason why it has to be one state or another. It could and should be several.

2) Yes, this might originally have been contemplated as a vehicle for requesting the impeachment of judges. But as any originalist will tell you, if it's not in the text, you're out of luck. All it says is impeachment. And since the president and his administration bear as directly on any state or territory as any judge does, there's a good case to be made. Even better, you're going to have to send Republicans to the floor to argue that the text doesn't mean what it says, which is fine with me, so long as we're still talking about impeachment.

3) The Speaker doesn't even technically have the power to schedule floor votes. That's the job of the Majority Leader, although in practice the Speaker would certainly have some say in the decision-making process. On the other hand, if the Speaker were backed by some sort of coalition that stood in opposition to the Majority Leader, you could theoretically muster the signatures to discharge anything you wanted and bring it to the floor, or just bypass the committees altogether. The Speaker's constitutional duties are supposed to be distinct from his role as a party leader, but in practical terms, it's just impossible to separate the two.

Assuming viget's very far-fetched hypothetical: The Speaker can take the Chair, and make hardball rulings from the Chair, and face appeals of those rulings, which his bipartisan coalition can defeat ... but this regime sounds even worse than what we have now.

Oh hey, go for Louisiana. If you can locate their representatives ... Certainly they'd be up for it.

Well, TypePad appears to have eaten my careful cut-and-paste job, so I'll start over again.

Elwood Dowd set off an interesting chain of questions and answers regarding the state-initiated impeachment mechanism that I think would be of interest here. Rather than go through all the trouble of relinking piece by piece, those interested in seeing the original exchange can find it here. For those who'd rather have it spelled out here, a transcript:

Elwood Dowd: One thing that puzzles me about the state-led impeachment proposal is, any individual Congressman can file a charge of impeachment, and it is a privileged motion that the leadership can't quash, correct?

So there is no need to start with a state, unless there is not a single Congressman willing to file charges? But if that's so, state-filed charges won't build much momentum.

What am I missing?

Kagro X: The dynamics that make it difficult for even a committed House Member to bring impeachment charges of her of volition are not present, or at least come from very different sources, for state legislators.

Everything from risking pending legislation (even just the table scraps Dems are allowed these days) and appropriations earmarks, to pressure from more cautious and conservative colleagues not to "make the Dems look bad" might be enough to keep House Members quiet.

But among Democrats who are part of an overwhelming majority, in a completely different setting, with completely different players, that all changes.

And a safe House Dem who receives such "instructions" from his home state legislature might find new reason to act. While she would still be subject to considerable pressure and/or backlash in Washingotn, there's a certain amount of cover that such an instruction would provide. Not to mention the competing political pressures on the home front that would be implied by an act of the legislature.

Elwood Dowd: Well, in this instance where the diarist is proposing Vermont, that effectively means expecting more willingness to be an outsider from Peter Welch (for example) than from Bernie Sanders.

I see the general dynamics of your point. But if there are no Congressmen whatsoever willing to file, the value of a state resolution seems pretty marginal. Especially when the previous use was in impeachment of a federal judge based in, and with jurisdiction limited to, the state that proposed impeachment.

I suppose Vermont could stand on its record of most Iraqi deaths per capita, and file impeachment on misleading us into war... that would provide some basis for claiming a special role.

Kagro X: That's not necessarily so crazy, to me. There are a number of reasons why, at this juncture, Peter Welch might be more willing to do this than Bernie Sanders -- though I'd prefer not to wait long enough to leave it up to Welch.

For one thing, Sanders is on his way out of the House and, with continued good luck, into the Senate. Dropping the I bomb with one foot out the door might not win you any friends in a town where you're already viewed with more than a little suspicion just for being independent.

For another, the threats that could be brought to bear against Sanders by nervous Dems are very different from those which might be leveled against Welch. Sanders has a long-standing but informal and tenuous relationship with the Democrats in the House, and must establish that relationship anew with Democrats in the Senate. He depends to a certain extent on their willingness to allow him to accrue seniority (for committee placement purposes) as though he were a Dem. So while some Congressional Democrats might well be upset with Welch, doing something about it that would have a substantial and noticeable impact to an incoming freshman would be considerably more difficult than punishing Sanders.

Consider also that Welch is the Vermont Senate President Pro-Tem. Passing a resolution like this in Vermont would make it very awkward for Welch if he were to decide against memorializing it on the House floor once he switched jobs.

It should also be pointed out that it's not clear that there are no Members of Congress willing to make an impeachment motion. John Conyers has introduced a resolution styled: Creating a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment. So he's clearly on the path, if not yet ready to move impeachment directly.

And of course, ultimately it must be admitted that the primary purpose of such an act would be its PR value. The GOP House would doubtless do everything in its power to stifle such a movement. But therein lies the story. Direct appeals for the impeachment of a president, made by the duly elected legislatures of the several states (how Revolutionary-sounding!), swept under the rug by the Republican culture of corruption.

I'll take that.

Odum (A Vermonter): Welch needs this election to be about Bush. When the Vermont bubble is put around an election, Republicans can and do win. This gives him away to break the bubble down. He might well be into it.

KX -- It's for reasons like these (in part) that I favor warming up the impeachment engine by impeaching a subordinate official of an earlier administration ... one that doesn't automatically throw the other party into full-tilt polarization, and one that doesn't leave the public tut-tutting about partisanship.

Impeach somebody who has already been convicted.

Impeach a Democrat.

Impeach a deaceased, convicted Democrat, thereby disqualifying him from the "honor, Trust or Profit" of having a Post Office named after him.

One caution: I would think that if the name in question isn't newsworthy enough, not only would there be no pressure to act on the transmission, but there would be puzzlement as to why they should in the first place.

That makes the most likely outcome a little-noticed shunting of the issue to the Judiciary Committee.

The weapon capable of preventing that (and thereby permitting us to run our test) would be the continual raising of highly privileged motions relating to the impeachment. But I would think that the risk of blowback would actually be greater if the public couldn't figure out why Democrats were spending so much time and energy impeaching the guy in the first place.

"Why do they keep bringing this dead guy up instead of doing their real work?"

Maybe there's something in the middle. Big enough name to raise eyebrows, but not the big cheese?

What about someone who got a recess appointment? What about someone who got a recess appointment and is a big jerk? What about someone who got a recess appointment and is a big jerk and has since been as big a jerk on the job as we all thought he would be? What about someone who got a recess appointment and is a big jerk and has since been as big a jerk on the job as we all thought he would be and who has a big, stupid-looking mustache?

Take a look at Illinois:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=50&GA=94&DocTypeId=HJR&DocNum=125&GAID=8&LegID=25794&SpecSess=&Session=

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