Impeachment is on the table.

But Congress is not allowed to bite.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on one of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in the chamber have signaled that they do not want the committee — let alone the full House — to take a vote on impeachment.

How’s that?

The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the president’s abuses of power — perhaps as soon as next week. Expert witnesses will be called. Kucinich says that a foreign official — who he has not named — is willing to testify regarding presidential wrongdoing. And Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the veteran Michigan Democrat who actually believes in presidential accountability but has had a hard time getting other top Democrats to embrace that belief, suggests that the hearing will review evidence of “all the (Bush administration actions) that constitute an imperial presidency.”

But, when all is said and done, the committee is only supposed to “accumulate” the evidence of imperial over-reach, not to act upon it.

This will frustrate ardent advocates for presidential accountability. And rightly so.

But the opportunity presented by the Judiciary Committee hearing ought not be dismissed or diminished. Conyers and his staff have been working for several years to quantify evidence of abuses, excesses and lawless acts committed by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their aides.

Needless to say, Conyers and his staff have accumulated a lot of information — more than enough to fill a book.

A thoughtful review of that information, in a formal setting, will make clear the extent of which this president and those around him have engaged in precisely the sort of wrongdoing that the founders imagined when they gave the House the power to impeach members of the executive branch.

Achieving that clarity — ideally on live television — is an imperfect, yet essential, step in the arduous process of getting reluctant members of the House to uphold an oath of office that requires them to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic.”