As the House Judiciary Committee took up the question of how best to address what its chairman described as “the Imperial Presidency of George W. Bush,” it was one of the ranking Republicans in the room, Iowa Congressman Steve King, who observed that, “We are here having impeachment hearings before the Judiciary Committee.”
“These are impeachment hearings before the United States Congress,” King continued. “I never imagined I would ever be sitting on this side when something like this happened.”
King was not happy about the circumstance.
A resolute defender of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, the congressman was objecting to the very mention of the “I” word.
As it happened, impeachment was mentioned dozens of times during the hearing, often in significant detail and frequently as a necessary response to lawless actions of the president and vice president.
King’s statement addressed the uncertain character of Friday morning’s attempt by the relevant committee of the chamber empowered by the founders to impose accountability on presidents and vice presidents to tackle what Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, D-Michigan, referred to as “numerous credible allegations of serious misconduct by officials in the Bush Administration.”
Conyers explained that “to the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing.” For that to happen, Conyers argued, the committee would need clearer authorization from the full House.
But members of the committee, the Democrats and the Republicans, as well as a bipartisan panel of House members and another panel of former House members, and academics and activists, repeatedly put the impeachment on the table of a chamber where the speaker had once denied it a place.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey, D-New York, told the committee that President Bush and Vice President Cheney had committed acts that make theirs “the most impeachable administration in the history of our country.”
Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson-Lee, held up a copy of the Constitution and announced, “There is a real question of whether this Constitution is being protected.”
Republican members of the committee griped. Indiana Congressman Mike Pence complained that the entire session – with its discussion not just of impeachment but of legislative initiatives to address executive secrecy and overreach – caused him to worry about “the criminalization of American politics.”