Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) announced today that he will be offering a privileged resolution on the House floor next week that will bring articles of impeachment against the Vice President, Richard B. Cheney.
“The momentum is building for impeachment,” Kucinich said. “Millions of citizens across the nation are demanding Congress rein in the Vice President’s abuse of power.
“Despite this groundswell of opposition to the unconstitutional conduct of office, Vice President Cheney continues to violate the U.S. Constitution by insisting the power of the executive branch is supreme...
The privileged resolution has priority status for consideration on the House floor. Once introduced, the resolution has to be brought to the floor within two legislative days, although the House could act on it immediately. Kucinich is expected to bring it to the House floor on Tuesday, November 6
Reasonable people might ask themselves 'gee, if it was this easy to force a vote on impeachment, how come it's never happened before?'
The answer is in the House rules.
This excerpt is from 'A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House.' published by the House of Representatives just a few years ago. Here is what it has to say about privileged resolutions:
Questions of the privileges of the House are brought before the House in the form of a resolution. Under rule IX such a resolution is privileged when called up by any Member. However, its privilege is subject to a two-day notice requirement, which must include an announcement of the form of the resolution. Such announcement may be dispensed with by unanimous consent. The Speaker designates the time for consideration within two legislative days after the announcement, which may include immediate consideration. Under rule IX the Majority and Minority Leaders are excluded from the notice requirement. They may offer the resolution at any time, yielding only to the motion to adjourn. The form of the announcement follows:
FormMember (other than Majority or Minority Leader): Mr. Speaker, pursuant to clause 2(a)(1) of rule IX, I rise to give notice of my intent to raise a question of the privileges of the House. The form of the resolution is as follows: [Note: The Member may read the resolution in full or may ask unanimous consent to dispense with the reading.]
Speaker: Under rule IX, a resolution offered from the floor by a Member other than the Majority Leader or the Minority Leader as a question of the privileges of the House has immediate precedence only at a time designated by the Chair within two legislative days after the resolution is properly noticed. Pending that designation, the form of the resolution noticed by the gentle____ from ______ will appear in the Record at this point. The Chair will not at this point determine whether the resolution constitutes a question of privilege. That determination will be made at the time designated for consideration of the resolution and the gentle____ will be notified.
The form of calling up the resolution follows:
FormMember: Mr. Speaker, I rise to a question of the privileges of the House, and offer a resolution announced on ______.
Speaker: The gentleman submits a resolution relating to the privileges of the House, which the Clerk will report.
Opponent: Mr. Speaker, I make a point of order that the gentleman does not present a question of privilege.
Speaker: The gentleman presents a question of privilege, and is recognized. [Or] The Chair will entertain argument as to whether the resolution constitutes a question of privilege.
Under rule IX, a question of the privileges of the House having been raised, the Speaker initially decides whether the question presented constitutes a question of the privileges of the House, and rules as to the validity of the question raised. He makes this decision at the time the question of privilege is called up, not at the time notice is given. Appeal may be taken from the Chair's ruling, however, because the final determination as to the validity of the question rests with the House.
The question having been properly raised on the floor by a Member, the Speaker must entertain the question and rule on its admissibility. If the matter is not admissible as a question of the privileges of the House, he may refuse recognition.
The resolution must show a prima facie breach of the privileges of the House. The mere statement that the privileges of the House have been violated does not present a question of privilege.
Despite my experience in the House of Representatives, I can claim no expertise on a topic explored so rarely. However, it certainly seems that while Mr. Kucinich may assert that his impeachment resolution is privileged, the Speaker will have to determine that question -- and her ruling may be appealed to the whole of the House.
If she rules in favor, then the debate on Kucinich's impeachment resolution begins. If she rules against and is sustained, then it's over before it begins.
So assuming Kucinich carries through on this -- which seems inevitable -- Speaker Pelosi will likely have to decide whether to deny the Netroots their fondest desire, or whether to allow an impeachment debate. If she rules against him, Mr. Kucinich could appeal her ruling, and potentially all Members of the House to go on record in favor of, or in opposition to, beginning the debate over impeachment. This is exactly the debate and vote that the GOP would force the Democrats to undertake, if they could.
It ought to really help the Congressional approval rating.
Read also: Michelle Malkin, Jules Crittenden, and Blue Crab Boulevard, and at Memeorandum.