WASHINGTON - Democrats in the House of Representatives yesterday scuttled a colleague's proposal to impeach President Bush on a wide range of charges, including lying to the American public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, torturing war captives, and misleading Congress in an attempt to destroy Medicare.
By a 251-166 vote, the House sent the 35-count articles of impeachment to the Judiciary Committee, which is expected to let it die without further action. While the vote technically forces the measure to the committee for consideration, it also means the full House will avoid having to debate and vote on impeaching the 43d president.
Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who ran for his party's presidential nomination this year, spent several hours reading into the Congressional Record his lengthy and far-reaching indictment of Bush's presidency.
He introduced the proposal as a resolution, which could be considered by the full House without going through the committee process.
While fellow Democrats have frequently used the House floor to attack Bush for his policies on Iraq, healthcare, domestic surveillance, and many of Kucinich's other grievances, none has joined him in mounting an impeachment effort.
Republicans in 2006 warned voters that Democrats would try to impeach Bush if Republicans lost their 12-year majority in Congress, as they went on to do in that year's mid-term balloting.
Democratic leaders have long objected to Kucinich's initiative, saying it would be divisive and in any case unsuccessful.
"The American people sent us there [to Congress] to get things done," Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told reporters at a breakfast yesterday. "They didn't send us there to impeach the President."
No Democrats voted against the resolution, to send the measure to certain death in the Judiciary Committee, but 166 Republicans voted no - a tactic designed to force Democrats to address the measure publicly.
Their votes technically could have kept alive the possibility that the resolution could come up on the House floor, and Republicans wanted to expose Democrats for their "trivial and silly conspiracy theories," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for the House GOP leadership.
"There should be consequences when the Democratic leadership allows the House floor to be hijacked by the loony left," Steel said.
In November, Kucinich brought a similar measure against Vice President Dick Cheney. It was also referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it died.