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Vermonters Speak Out

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


VERMONTERS SPEAK OUT -- (House of Representatives - May 15, 2007)

Mr. WELCH of Vermont. Madam Speaker, I rise to report on an effort in Vermont that honors the tradition of Vermonters speaking out on issues of conscience. Vermonters take public service, political integrity and citizen involvement extremely seriously. This is a tradition that dates back to our earliest days when Vermont became the very first State to ban slavery.

But with rising alarm, Vermont has watched abuse of power and a disregard for checks and balances in Washington that has occurred over the past 6 years.

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Vermonters have such extraordinary concern, particularly with the prosecution of this war in Iraq, that many are now actually calling for the President and the Vice President to be impeached.

Impeachment is a dramatic position, but it reflects the collective judgment of many in Vermont that we are in extreme circumstances. Madam Speaker, I do not believe that impeachment is the answer, but I endorse the indictment of the policies of the current administration.

What this Nation has experienced over the past 6 years has been staggering: a war in its fifth year that was justified based on false intelligence; the politicization of our Nation's top

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law enforcement agency; the cavalier disregard for civil liberties and constitutional protections; no-bid war contracts to well-connected friends; the use of signing statements to disregard the law; and the denial of habeas corpus, a basic right, for those in U.S. custody.

The list could go on. These and other transgressions have caused some Vermonters to rise up and promote the use of impeachment to restore accountability and curb the abuse of power. This impeachment movement in Vermont started last year in the small town of Newfane, population 1,700, by Dan DeWalt, a selectman on the town board.

After voting for the town clerk, the tax collector and voting whether to fund a village sidewalk project and the local school, the town then voted on a resolution to send a message to Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings. This initiative then spread from one small southern Vermont town to 40 towns across the State.

My own hometown of Hartland joined this call, and I've spoken with many of my neighbors, farmer, teachers, doctors and store owners, about their vote, and what they share is an outrage about the conduct of this administration and the prosecution of this terrible war.

Even last month, the Vermont General Assembly took up the issue. On April 20, the Vermont State Senate voted 16-9 in favor of Congress launching impeachment investigations, and while the Vermont House of Representatives defeated the resolution, it still received 60 supportive votes from Vermont legislators. And nearly 400 Vermonters representing 102 of Vermont's 251 towns came to the State House that day to voice their views. And this past Saturday, I held a town meeting in the town of Hartford, Vermont, and heard from 250 Vermonters advocating for this extraordinary measure.

I applaud these citizen activists who have acted in the Vermont tradition of speaking out and taking a principled stand to protect our democracy. They raise valid concerns about the actions of this administration and, if those actions are allowed to go unchecked, the threat to democracy that we face. Their concerns are well-founded.

But let me be clear, opinion is divided in Vermont about whether impeachment is the right remedy and whether it's the right tactic, but what motivated this effort is a commonly shared view that this administration has grossly abused its power and pursued terribly misguided policies.

Madam Speaker, while I disagree with the tactic of impeachment, I completely share the goal of restoring accountability and a new direction to our government.

Our oversight investigations in Congress have exposed egregiously substandard care at Walter Reed where we have heard about soldiers still recovering from brain surgery forced to wander the grounds to find the outpatient care they were promised.

Congressional oversight has documented unacceptable accounts of political interference by the administration over sound global warming science, with political appointees editing scientific reports.

And our probes have uncovered waste and fraud and abuse associated with the war in Iraq to an unimaginable scale, $12 billion of $100 bills flown from the United States to Iraq and then distributed from the back of pickup trucks.

And through our oversight and subpoenas, we are vigorously seeking to expose and investigate the peddling of faulty intelligence that the administration presented to justify their case for war.

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And through our oversight and subpoenas, we are vigorously seeking to expose and investigate the peddling of faulty intelligence the Administration presented in their case for war.

We must demand to know whether the Administration's active dissemination of bad intelligence was premeditated with the intention of deceiving the American people, or was it reckless and cavalier, done to justify a decision to go to war that had already been made?

At every corner, step by step, Congress is methodically peeling back the layers of deception and deceit, holding this Administration accountable. We must get the facts and follow the facts. And that is exactly what is being done.

Madam Speaker, this pursuit of impeachment has consequences to real lives and real people. I measure every decision I make here in Congress based on whether it will hasten or delay an end to this war. Nothing illustrates this urgency more than a phone call I received before a recent trip to Iraq. The call was from a mother in the town of Brattleboro who lost her son in this terrible war. She so desired closure over her son's death, that she asked to accompany me to Iraq so she could see where her son had died. It was a stark reminder that there is no greater challenge we face than ending this war.

I also submit for the record a letter that was read at the Hartland town meeting from Lisa Johnson of Essex Jct. about the death in Iraq of her son Captain Pierre Piché.

I am proud of the Vermonters pushing for facts, prodding for accountability, and demanding oversight.

As I travel around the State, meeting with Vermonters, I also hear a sense of optimism: it is the optimism that comes from Congress restoring the checks and balances that had for too long been lost and an optimism from seeing a Congress finally getting down to making progress with new priorities and a new direction for this country.

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Senate Resolution 16

Whereas, President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney have exercised the duties of their respective offices with respect to both domestic and foreign affairs in ways that raise serious questions of constitutionality, statutory legality, and abuse of the public trust, and

Whereas, the President's conduct in his role as Commander in Chief in leading our nation into the military conflict in Iraq, and the Vice President's continual advocacy for American troops remaining in Iraq, have cost the United States much of the good will that was extended to our country in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, and

Whereas, the President's and the Vice President's domestic leadership on issues relating to individual privacy and personal liberty under law has raised constitutional issues of the greatest concern to the nation's citizenry, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate:

That the Senate of the State of Vermont urges Vermont's Representative in the United States House of Representatives to introduce, and Vermont's United States Senators to support, a resolution requiring the United States House Judiciary Committee to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President and the Vice President of the United States, and be it further

Resolved: That the Secretary of the Senate be directed to send a copy of this resolution to United States Representative Peter Welch, United States Senator Patrick J. Leahy and United States Senator Bernard Sanders.

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