WASHINGTON—If campaign talk means anything, there'd be at least one sure vote on the House Judiciary Committee to impeach President Bush if the matter ever came up.
It would come from freshman Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, the Minneapolis lawyer and former state legislator who got a plum assignment when he was named to the storied House panel earlier this month. It has jurisdiction over impeachment.
At a rally last October, Ellison said Bush has been "running amok" and needed to be reined in: "There is one way that you can truly hold this president accountable, and it's impeachment."
But for the time being anyway, Ellison seems in no hurry to push the matter.
"My opinions really have not changed over time, but the circumstances that I'm in have," he said. He said he was "a step before impeachment," and that his emphasis as he learned the ropes in Congress was on a broader range of human and civil rights issues.
Democratic leaders have made it clear that they don't intend to move to impeach Bush. But pro-impeachment groups plan to press their case when they join antiwar demonstrators for a huge rally Saturday in Washington.
"All of us are thrilled that Mr. Ellison is in Congress and is on the Judiciary Committee," said David Swanson, the Washington director of ImpeachPAC. "Keith Ellison, I think it's safe to say, has gone further toward impeachment than any other member of Congress."
Ellison introduced a pro-impeachment resolution in the Minnesota legislature last year. He received a $1,000 contribution from ImpeachPAC.
Since taking office Jan. 4, Ellison hasn't made impeachment an issue. He joked recently that he's still learning where the bathrooms and cafeterias are. But he said he was backing proposals to fully investigate Bush and that "a little more homework" was required before Congress could move to impeach.
"I'm a lawyer, you know. I don't think due process is just for some people, it's for all people, including the president."
Ellison added that Congress must take its time.
"These things are fluid," he said. "You know, these things have to take shape. . . . The bottom line is we're going to have to let this thing run its proper and due course."
Impeachment backers say Ellison has been on the job for only three weeks and that it would be unfair to jump on him for not moving aggressively on impeachment. But Swanson said he'd be "extremely disappointed" if Ellison had done nothing after a month or two.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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