Yesterday when I should have been working, I instead procrastinated and went off on some odd tangents. I wanted to list the presidential candidates (17 of them) and then I saw Dennis Kucinich and beacuse of his funny sounding name ended up looking at news about him. He's proposed an impeachment of VP Cheney. So what does impeachment really mean?
Most of this I knew already and most of my readers will know most of it, but I decided to put it together in one place.
Generally, impeachment is thought of as kicking someone out of office. This is wrong. Impeachment is the process where an official is brought to trial. The impeachment trial can result in conviction or aquittal, conviction means kicking someone out of office.
The impeachment process starts in the House of Representatives (what a fine bunch). Typically, the resolution is sent to the judiciary committee. It may also wind through a couple other committees. A simple majority of those present and voting is enough to proceed.
At this point, control passes to the Senate (another fine bunch). They sit in judgement over the accused. Conviction requires a 2/3 majority vote. Here's the interesting part. If the president is impeached, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides. In other cases, the VP presides.
So (in theory), the VP could preside over his own case.
In looking at some of the history of impeachment, it looks like James Madison had a good bit to do with that part of the Constitution. Thanks to him, impeachment can only occur due to "treason, bribery, other high crimes and misdemeanors." Incompetence is not impeachable. Jefferson's manual offers some information on impeachment as well (food for another procrastination).
There have been 17 cases of impeachment at the federal level, 13 of these for judges and justices. Of the judges, 7 were removed from office and 2 resigned. One senator was impeached, but he was removed from office by Senate rules before the impeachment proceedings. In 1876, the Secretary of War (now called Secretary of defense) was impeached, he resigned and then was aquitted.
Only twice has a sitting president been impeached. Andrew Johnson (Lincoln's successor) was impeached, but aquitted and Bill Clinton was impeached, but aquitted. Clinton was impeached on two counts: Perjury and Obstruction of justice. Two other counts were attempted, but did not make it to aquital: a second count of perjury and abuse of power. (Next time I procrastinate, I'll research those four charges)
Contrary to popular opinion, Nixon was not impeached. Impeachment proceedings were in process and would likely have resulted in impeachment, but Nixon resigned instead.
There have been 63 resolutions presented for impeachment including resolutions to impeach George Washington, John Tyler, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Nancy Pelosi has implied that impeachment hearings against Bush & Cheney are not going to happen. It appears to this researcher that she just doesn't want her tenure bogged down in the proceedings. Since any vote is likely to be split down party lines, I would agree with her. Of course, I'm not sure there's much progress being made anyway, so I can't see much damage either way.