Christine Stuart photo
Congressman John B. Larson, D-1 (Christine Stuart photo)

Some of U.S. Congressman John Larson’s constituents are asking why Congress hasn’t aggressively pursed impeachment proceedings against the White House.

At a Sunday forum on the Iraq War, Lois Bromson of East Hartford said the biggest mistake Democrats made when they took control of the House was continuing to fund the war. She said she watched Bill Moyers Journal Friday and is now convinced “impeachment is the way to go.”

The room of about 50 people gathered at the Pitkin Community Center in Wethersfield applauded Bromson’s comments.

Larson was quick to caution, but not entirely dismiss, the idea of impeachment.

He said if you impeach President George W. Bush then you get Vice President Dick Cheney, and if you impeach them both the next person in line for the job is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He said the order of constitutional succession makes it difficult for Pelosi to sell the idea of impeachment without seeming self-serving.

Pelosi has said impeachment is “off the table.”

Larson said what people seem to forget is that since Democrats won back a majority in the House they’ve had more than 600 hearings on the war. He said it’s not as if this Congress is doing nothing. “It’s hard to take your eye off everything else that’s going on at this time,” and focus solely on impeachment, he said.

In addition, it would be difficult to impeach the president and vice president in the 17-months they have left in the White House, he said.

One man brought up the fact that impeachment is not solely about ousting Bush and Cheney from the White House, it’s about the constitutional crisis. The audience again applauded.

Cheryl O’Connor told Larson toward the end of the two-hour forum that he underestimated the strength of the American people to support Congress if it decided to take action. She said a public opinion poll from the American Research Group reported that more than 45 percent favor impeachment hearings for President Bush and more than 54 percent favor impeachment for Vice President Cheney.

“Congress may not be at the tipping point, but you should know the American people are behind you,” O’Connor said.

Larson said he understands what she’s saying. He said Democrats are doing everything conceivably possible to push this forward, but “it’s a process.”

“I heard you tonight and we’re not going to take impeachment off the table,” Larson said.

Larson said earlier in the discussion that he prefers to go after ending the war by Congressional resolution. He said the House has now passed three separate pieces of legislation regarding the war, but none of them have become law.

Last week, the House passed a bill that would require a redeployment of troops in Iraq by April 2008 and would begin 120 days after the bill is enacted. The president has threatened a veto, and it is unlikely to make it through the Senate for a vote.

But Larson still holds out hope for Iraq War legislation passing both chambers. He said the House will take up the defense appropriations bill at the end of July. He said other likely topics will include legislation banning permanent bases in Iraq and cracking down on illegal contracting, as well as the issue of torture. 

“I think the dam is going to burst,” Larson said.

Larson was in charge of weeding through the 38 different proposals for exiting Iraq. It was Larson’s job to come up with a unified message, which will likely need Republican support to move forward. 

“Someone on the Republican side has to be like Fulbright during the Vietnam War,” Larson said Sunday.

Sen. William Fulbright’s criticism helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam War in part because it came from President’s own party.

Larson said just this Friday US Congressman Chris Shays, R-4th, began reconsidering his position on the war.

“We need to bring our troops home, and we need a deadline to do that. But this deadline begins in 120 days and concludes by April of next year, guaranteeing absolute failure, laying waste to all the investment we have talked about,” Shays said. “Give me a deadline I can support, and I will vote for it.” Click here for more on Shay’s stance.