Unlike Articles of Impeachment the Hinchey/Feingold Resolutions, if Passed, Would Carry Absolutely No Actual Consequences for the Men Accused of 'Disregarding Rule of Law'
Was Hinchey Just Kidding When He Described the Admin Just Weeks Ago as 'The Most Impeachable in the History of Our Country'?...
By Brad Friedman on 8/6/2007, 10:46am PT  

Blogged by Brad from the road...in Texas...

Now UPDATED with a response from Hinchey's office. See update at end of article.

Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate have announced they are prepared to issue a very, very stern slap on the wrist to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Alberto Gonzales.

Moments ago, in a joint news release (posted in full below) issued by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), it was announced that Censure resolutions, which have absolutely no force of law or actual consequences if passed, would be brought against the three men in both chambers.

"From misleading this country into invading Iraq to establishing a warrantless domestic spy program, this White House has continuously misled and deceived the American people while disregarding the rule of law that guides our democracy," says Hinchey in the statement.

Of course, it could be argued that a resolution of Censure, in lieu of a trial on Articles of Impeachment, is one of the only ways the U.S. Senate can bring some form of historic accountability to the three accused men until such Articles of Impeachment are sent to them by the U.S. House. But where the Senate may be limited in that they cannot bring their own Articles of Impeachment, the U.S. House has no such excuse.

The Censure resolution brought by Hinchey seems to fly in the face of his own comments on the Peter B. Collins Show just weeks ago when he said that this administration was "the most impeachable in the history of our country." From the transcript/audio of the interview:

HINCHEY: I think that this administration --- both the President and the Vice-President --- are the most impeachable in the history of our country. They have engaged in activities that have not only made them impeachable, but they have engaged in activities that have violated, in a criminal way, very important federal laws.

And yet, Hinchey is now supporting only Censure, apparently.

If Hinchey and his 19 co-sponsors in the House believe the White House needs condemnation for the points they describe in their resolutions of Censure --- which read like a swell description of Impeachable High Crimes and Misdemeanors --- then they have little excuse not to perform their Constitutional Duty and bring forward Articles of Impeachment in the House for this precise set of serious crimes which, as Hinchey said, "disregard the rule of law that guides our democracy."

Then again, courage of conviction is not something Democrats are too often accused of.

While we were unable to reach the White House for comment, we are fairly well able to anticipate their expected reaction to the Democrats latest attempt at "accountability":

The press release from Feingold and Hinchey, announcing Censure Resolutions in both the House and Senate, follows in full below. Following that is an update with a response from Hinchey's office to the comments above...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 6, 2007
Contact:
Zach Lowe (Feingold) – (202) 224-8657
Jeff Lieberson (Hinchey) – (202) 225-1265

FEINGOLD, HINCHEY INTRODUCE RESOLUTIONS CENSURING PRESIDENT, VICE PRESIDENT AND ATTORNEY GENERAL
Resolutions Condemn President and Administration Officials for Misconduct Leading Up to and During Military Involvement in Iraq, and for Undermining the Rule of Law

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) have introduced two censure resolutions in their respective chambers condemning the president, vice president and the attorney general for misconduct regarding our military involvement in Iraq and for their repeated assaults on the rule of law at home. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) is a cosponsor of both Senate censure resolutions and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is a cosponsor of the Senate censure resolution regarding Iraq. The House resolutions have 19 original cosponsors.

“Congress cannot stay silent when the American people are demanding that this administration be held accountable for its blatant misconduct regarding Iraq and its attack on the rule of law,” Feingold said. “These censure resolutions will let future generations know that Congress stood up to the destructive policies of this administration that have weakened our national security, cost more than 3,600 American lives, and undermined the principles on which our country was founded. I applaud Congressman Hinchey for leading this charge for accountability in the House of Representatives.”

“From misleading this country into invading Iraq to establishing a warrantless domestic spy program, this White House has continuously misled and deceived the American people while disregarding the rule of law that guides our democracy,” Hinchey said. “The Bush administration has placed an extraordinary burden on this and future generations to recover from the damage done to our Constitution and national security. While it will take time to get our country back on the right track, we in Congress can act now by passing these censure resolutions to hold the White House accountable and to let the historical record show that an equal branch of government found the actions of this administration undeniably reprehensible. I am honored to be working with Senator Feingold on these censure resolutions and look forward to gathering support in order to pass them in both chambers.”

The censure resolutions regarding Iraq, S.Res.302 and H.Res.625, condemn the president and vice president for:

  • Misleading the nation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime and about Saddam’s links to al Qaeda and 9/11
  • Inadequate planning for military action in Iraq
  • Overstraining the military and undermining homeland security
  • Misleading the nation about the strength of the insurgency

The censure resolutions regarding the rule of law, S.Res.303 and H.Res.626, condemn the president and attorney general for:

  • Authorizing the illegal NSA warrantless wiretapping program
  • Pursuing extreme policies concerning torture and the treatment of detainees
  • Detaining enemy combatants indefinitely without charges, access to a lawyer, or habeas rights
  • Unilaterally authorizing flawed military commissions that were subsequently struck down by the Supreme Court
  • Misleading Congress and the public about, and obstructing investigations into, the firings of U.S. Attorneys
  • Making misleading statements regarding civil liberties abuses under the Patriot Act
  • Undermining acts of Congress with signing statements based on extreme theories of executive power

Cosponsors of the House resolutions are Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Danny Davis (D-IL), Sam Farr (D-CA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), John Hall (D-NY), Michael Honda (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James Moran (D-VA), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Carol Shea Porter (D-NH), and Diane Watson (D-CA).

The Senate censure resolution regarding Iraq is available at http://feingold.senate.gov/censureiraq302.pdf. The Senate censure resolution regarding the rule of law is available at http://feingold.senate.g.../censureruleoflaw303.pdf. The House resolutions are identical.

###

UPDATE: Hinchey's office responds to our query about how he squared his previous comments on the Peter B. Collins Show, with his Resolution for Censure as filed today. The following comments were sent via email from his spokesperson, Jeff Lieberson:

Congressman Hinchey still stands by those statements and believes that Bush and Cheney are the most impeachable president and vice president in U.S. history. However, the congressman recognizes that the votes are simply not there in the House for impeachment and there is no way that two-thirds of the Senate would vote in favor of conviction. Censuring the president, vice president, and attorney general is a more realistic approach. It would note in the historical record that this Congress stood up to this administration and formally condemned its egregious actions. It would also take a lot less time than impeachment proceedings, which would inhibit Congress from actually working on legislation to reverse the damage this administration has done over the past six and a half years.

We would respond in kind by reminding the Congressman of member's Constitutional duty to hold the Executive Branch accountable for High Crimes and Misdemeanors if they believe them to have been committed. Period. There is nothing to our knowledge concerning "censure" in the Constitution.

Impeachment proceedings are designed to determine whether or not the House believes that such crimes have been committed, and to give members an opportunity to vote up or down on them after examining such evidence as presented.

Furthermore, after Articles of Impeachment are sent to the Senate --- if the House, after being given the opportunity to vote for or against them, votes for them on the record --- a trial is held in the Senate during which testimony is taken, publicly and under oath, from those who have been Impeached along with other witnesses, and evidence is presented.

Then, and only then --- after the evidence is made public, without the benefit of withholding direct testimony --- would we know if there were enough votes to convict in the Senate.

If Hinchey feels that this administration is "the most impeachable in history," then presumably he feels there is evidence to make that case. And with a criminal trial for anything else, the evidence is presented and then it's determined whether the jury is willing to convict or not.

As to the time such proceedings would take, David Swanson, dispatches that argument smartly in one of his articles touching on that topic earlier today.