As Democrats work to defund Vice President's office, Republican asks 'Will Cheney get a Katrina trailer?'
A group of Democrats made their case Thursday afternoon to cut all funding for the executive branch office of Vice President Dick Cheney on the floor of the House of Representatives. The move prompted a Republican Congressman to ask whether Cheney would get a 'Katrina trailer' in place of his official residence.
"I offer a simple amendment that bars the executive branch from being used to fund an office that does not exist in the executive branch, the Office of the Vice President," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, who introduced the amendment. "There have been 46 vice presidents in US history, and not one of them...ever claimed [that the vice president was not part of the executive branch]."
Pointing to a four-part series that ran in this week's Washington Post on Cheney's role in the presidency of George W. Bush, Emanuel assailed the vice president for having too much power.
"Rather than claiming that he wasn't part of the executive branch...it sounds like he is the executive branch," the Illinois Democrat said. "There is no Cheney branch of government...He been held unaccountable for six years, and now he wants to be held unaccountable in the historical record."
Emanuel's amendment moved to cut all funding to the Vice President's executive office, as well as the funds for his residence.
The latter half of the amendment prompted Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services which funds the White House, to ask where Cheney would live.
"Of course you're going to abolish the residence, and I assume you're going to get a Katrina trailer to provide for the vice president since we historically have provided housing, and you don't offer any substitute for the existing residence," Regula said. "So I would think you would want to give that some thought."
But he also offered a warning to the Democrats who were moving to cut the vice president's funding.
"Where do we stop if we decide to use the power of the purse to pass judgment on the policies of people who serve in government?" the Ohio Republican asked. "You might have a Vice President, too, and once you set that precedent, I'm not sure you'd want that to be part of your legacy."
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) rebutted the notion that there was a bad precedent being set by the Democratic members of the House.
"We may have a vice president some day, but that vice president will admit that he is part of the executive branch," he said.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) also responded to Regula's warning.
"The gentleman from Ohio said be careful what you wish for. Well, here's what I wish for - a vice president of the United States who will not show contempt for the norms of democracy," the chairman of the Financial Services Committee said.
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the Republican House Whip, accused the Democrats in the chamber of only seeking press coverage.
"This is an amendment in search of a press release," he argued. "We know what branch of government he belongs to, no matter how confusing that may seem, there are only three, we know which one he's part of."
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) also argued that the bill created constitutional dangers.
"This is not a legitimate debate about whether or not the vice president is in one branch or another...this is a raw grab for power to defund an essential constitutional office, and it is wrong, and if it even comes close to passing, if it is not on a bipartisan basis defeated, the gentleman from Illinois will in fact have undercut the very underpinnings of the constitution," he argued.
Ultimately, Emanuel emphasized that his bill was not purely partisan in nature, and was needed for the purposes of promoting partisan accountability.
"I don't come to this amendment lightly...you had said 'we may have a vice president'....Vice President Cheney is all of our vice president, he's not yours," the Democratic Caucus chairman argued. "For every step of the way, he has chosen secrecy over sunshine, obstruction over accountability."
With limited members in the chamber, Rep. Emanuel's amendment appeared to be defeated by a voice vote. However, the bill is set to receive a recorded vote later in the day. A Democratic leadership staff member told RAW STORY that a party-line vote in favor of the amendment was expected.