|00:00:00||HARD-CHARGING VOTE ON A PARTISAN BASIS.|
|00:00:04||WHERE THERE SHOULD BE SCRUPULOUS ATTENTION TO THE BASIS FOR IMPEACHMENT, I SEE A CAVALIER WILLINGNESS TO DEFINE IMPEACHING DOWN, NOT WHAT THE FRAMERS INTENDED.|
|00:00:18||AND I SEE HERE A CYNICAL AND UNFAIR MANIPULATION OF THE RULES TO DENY MEMBERS THE RIGHT TO CENSURE.|
|00:00:29||THIS IS THE MOST APPROPRIATE SANCTION UNDER THE CONSTITUTION FOR THE BEHAVIOR WE ARE CONSIDERING.|
|00:00:34||IT DENIES MANY THE RIGHT TO VOTE THEIR CONSCIENCE ON THE MOST SERIOUS QUESTION WE ARE EVER LIKELY TO FACE AS MEMBERS OF THIS BODY.|
|00:00:42||IT IS MANIPULATIVE AND UNFAIR AND AS THOUGH THE REPUBLICAN LEADERS HAVE SET OUT TO CONFIRM ALL THE WORST SUSPICIONS AMERICANS HAVE ABOUT POLITICS AND POLITICSES.|
|00:00:51||THIS HOUSE IS ON THE BRINK OF A HIS THORK AND -- OF A HISTORIC AND TRAGIC FAILURE.|
|00:01:02||SENSENBRENNER: I YIELD TO MR.|
|00:01:04||BOB SCHAEFER -- MR.|
|00:01:08||SCHAFFER THREE MINUTES, MR.|
|00:01:10||BURR, 2 1/2 MINUTES, AND THE GENTLEMAN FROM ARIZONA, MR.|
|00:01:13||HAYWORTH, TWO MINUTES.|
|00:01:14||THE SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE: THE GENTLEMAN FROM COLORADO IS RECOGNIZED FOR THREE MINUTES.|
|00:01:17||MR. SCHAFFER: THANK YOU, MR.|
|00:01:19||IN THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL TERMS, WHAT AMERICANS ARE FIGHTING FOR TODAY IN IRAQ IS THE TRUTH.|
Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Speaker, this institution is failing to live up to its responsibilities, just as surely as the President has failed to live up to his, and the House's failure may well do the more lasting damage to our Constitution. Where there should be an extraordinary effort to work across party lines and find a consensual basis for action, I see a hard charging majority bringing articles of impeachment to the floor on a strictly partisan basis. Where there should be scrupulous attention to the constitutional and historical basis for impeachment, I see a cavalier willingness to define impeachment down to get a favorable vote, in disregard of what the framers intended.
[TIME: 2045] And where there should be assurances that this is a vote of conscience, I see a cynical and unfair manipulation of the rules to deny Members the right to vote on a motion of censure and to tilt the outcome in favor of impeachment.
This shuts off consideration of the most appropriate sanction under the Constitution for the behavior we are considering. It denies many of us the right to vote our consciences on the most serious question we are ever likely to face as Members of this body. It is manipulative, it is cynical, it is unfair. It is as though the Republican leaders of this House have set out to confirm all of the worst suspicions Americans have about politics and politicians.
Mr. Speaker, this House is on the brink of a historic and tragic failure. I beg my colleagues to take heed.
Mr. Speaker, who among us would have thought when we ran for office or when the 105th Congress began, that this is where it would end? For the second time in the 209-year history of this republic, we are debating articles of impeachment of a president on the House floor. This is likely to be the most important vote any of us will ever cast. The judgment of history should weight heavily on our minds.
What has brought us to this point? The reckless, irresponsible behavior of the president and his efforts to cover up that behavior, even when he was sworn to tell the truth. Many legitimate and troubling questions have been raised about the way the independent counsel and those working with him pursued this case, but this case is inescapably about the president and his behavior, which violated basic moral standards and is deserving of condemnation and reproach.
That is not the end of the matter, however, for this case is also about us, as members of the House of Representatives. We have had this matter thrust upon us, and we must determine how to hold the president accountable in a way that is faithful to the Constitution, to the best interest of our nation, and to the people we represent. I say to my colleagues in all earnestness that we risk failing in this solemn task in a way that posterity will judge most harshly. Many have rightfully described this as a sad time. But despite the circumstances that have brought us to this point, I believe we could discharge our duty in a way that would uplift our nation and instill confidence in our people. Unfortunately, that is not what I see here today. I fear that this institution may fail to live up to its responsibilities as surely as the president has failed to live up to his. And our failure, if we go down the path the Republican leadership is attempting to drive us, may well do the more lasting damage to our Constitution and our system of government.
Where there should be, in a matter of such gravity, an extraordinary effort to work across party lines and to find a consensual basis for action, I see a hard-charging majority whipping its members into line, and bringing articles of impeachment to the floor after committee approval on a strictly partisan basis.
Where there should be scrupulous attention to the constitutional and historical basis for impeachment, I see a cavalier willingness to `define impeachment down' to secure a favorable vote, in disregard of both what the Framers intended in placing this power in the hands of the Congress and the constitutional mischief this action might encourage in the future.
Where there should be assurances that this is a vote of conscience and that members will be given a full and fair opportunity to debate and vote on legitimate and differing proposals for holding the president accountable, I see a cynical and unfair manipulation of the rules to deny members the right to vote on a motion of censure and to tilt the outcome in favor of impeachment.
This rigging of the rules shuts off consideration of the most appropriate sanction, under the Constitution, for the behavior we are considering. It blocks off the most promising possibility for bipartisan accommodation and agreement. It denies me and many like me the right to vote our consciences on the most serious question we are ever likely to consider as members of this body. It is manipulative, it is cynical, it is unfair. It is as though the Republican leadership of this House has set out to confirm all the worst suspicions and fears Americans have about politics and politicians.
And all this is happening at a time when the House ought to be rising to this extraordinary historical and constitutional challenge. It is indeed a sad and anxious time, and we should not doubt that history's judgment not only of the president but also of ourselves hangs in the balance.
In consulting the views of our country's founders, particularly the debate in the Federal Convention of 1787, and the subsequent precedents, I have come to the conclusion that seems to be shared among the vast majority of constitutional scholars: the Framers viewed impeachment of the president as a remedy reserved for protecting our Constitution and system of government from grave abuses that would destroy them.
The records of the Federal Convention make abundantly clear that the assumed grounds for impeachment were treason, corruption, and similar crimes against the state. Some delegates desired to provide flexibility in the grounds for impeachment, while others opposed any impeachment power for the legislative branch whatsoever as a threat to the independence of the executive. As a result, to the specified grounds for impeachment, treason and bribery, were added `other high Crimes and Misdemeanors against the State.' (see Madison's `Notes' for July 20 and September 8, 1787). The last three words were dropped by the Committee of Style, but with no intent to broaden the application of the terms.
As Alexander Hamilton subsequently wrote in the Federalist (no. 65): [Page: H11915] The subjects of . . . jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust . . . [relating] chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.
Presciently, Hamilton added that `in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.' The one time the House impeached a president demonstrated Hamilton's foresight. I've always heard a great deal about Andrew Johnson: I grew up thirty miles from his home and tailor shop in Greeneville, Tennessee, and I now represent the North Carolina district where he was born. Members would do well to reflect on the circumstances of Andrew Johnson's impeachment and the consequences that flowed from it. Although Johnson was not convicted by the Senate, his impeachment ushered in a period of congressional ascendance and hobbled the presidency into the next century. The republic survived: we were an insular, agrarian nation, less in need of a strong executive than we are now. But while the grounds for impeaching Johnson were closer to the constitutional standard than those we are considering today, history has not judged the perpetrators of Johnson's impeachment kindly.
The profiles in courage in 1868 were not those radical Republicans who pressed for impeachment; it was an easy vote for them, pleasing their political base and promoting their political ambitions. The profile in courage we most remember, in large part because of John F. Kennedy's book by that name, is Republican Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, whose vote prevented conviction by the Senate an who saw his political career ended by virtue of that vote. We would do well on this solemn occasion to recall the example of Edmund Ross and the warning he gave: If . . . the President must step down . . . a disgraced man and a political outcast . . . upon insufficient proofs and from partisan considerations, the office of President would be degraded, cease to be a coordinate branch of the government, and ever after subordinated to the legislative will. It would practically have revolutionized our splendid political fabric into a partisan Congressional autocracy.
We have an appropriate alternative in a resolution of censure. I have hear the objection that censure is not constitutional merely because it is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. The overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars disagree. The precedents for congressional censure of presidents number at least four. The most frequently cited case is the Senate's censure of President Andrew Jackson in 1834. The House has taken similar action, such as the 1842 report--adopted by a vote of the House--finding that President John Tyler abused his constitutional powers, or the 1848 resolution charging President James K. Polk with starting a war with Mexico in violation of the Constitution. In 1864, the Senate condemned President Abraham Lincoln for unconstitutional acts. Congress has censured civil officers of the United States beginning in 1822 and continuing throughout our history. For Republicans to call censure unconstitutional is simply a smoke screen to cover their cynical and unfair manipulation of the rules to deny members a vote on the alternative which is favored by most of the American people and which is the most appropriate way of holding the president accountable.
Censure opponents also argue that such a resolution would upset the equilibrium of power between the legislative and executive branches. This argument is a breathtaking display of crocodile tears, because these same people are pushing the House toward adoption of articles of impeachment which will weaken the executive far more than any resolution of censure. The Andrew Johnson impeachment shackled the presidency, requiring his successors to seek the permission of Congress to dismiss civil officers and cabinet officials. It was not until the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson that the office regained the powers enjoyed by President Lincoln and many of his predecessors. In 1885, Wilson described a `congressional government' that entered `more and more into the details of administration until it has virtually taken into its own hands all the substantial powers of government.' In portraying the approach the majority is taking today, Professor Bruce Ackerman of the Yale University School of Law observed that this `cavalier approach to the impeachment process would radically change [the separation of powers]. Congress could regularly respond to unpopular decisions by seeking to force the president from office. The result would be a massive shift toward a British-style system of parliamentary government.' In the long run, history will judge not only this president, but this House of Representatives as well. The articles of impeachment we are about to adopt, and from which I will strongly dissent, are incompatible with the intent of our Constitution's Framers and fly in the face of the convictions of most of our citizens and of our historical experience. The process by which we are considering them is a travesty. It denies to members the ability to vote our conscience and to the minority the right to propose alternative measures. It promotes division where there should be unity, distrust where there should be confidence.
Mr. Speaker, this House is on the brink of an historic and tragic failure. I beg my colleagues to take heed.