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Activists press Welch on impeachment, war funding

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. --Impeachment activists called on U.S. Rep. Peter Welch at an emotional meeting Saturday to initiate impeachment investigations against President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney as they criticized him for supporting additional funding for the war.

At the town meeting style forum Welch -- who said Thursday that he supports a redeployment bill that would fund the war for two more months -- told the feisty crowd that his goal was to end the war in Iraq and impeachment proceedings would interfere and prolong the fighting.

"History will impeach George Bush. We must end this war," he said.

Ben Burd of Middlebury disagreed. "We need to judge them now," he said, asking Welch to stop the funding for the war and call for impeachment. "Let the American people know the truth," he said.

About 200 people turned out for the meeting, which was requested by activists. On Saturday, Welch extended the gathering from 90 minutes to two hours so most people who wanted to speak could.

He praised those involved with the impeachment movement in Vermont for "sending a message that we're fed up with the direction of the country. We want our civil liberties protected, we want the Constitution protected ... and we want to end the war in Iraq."

Welch said he disagreed with impeachment but agreed with the indictment against the president.

That response wasn't enough for most in the crowd.

"It isn't about what you believe. It's about what we believe. We voted for you because we felt you would represent our voice," said Peggy Sapphire of Craftsbury.

Adrienne Kinne of Sharon, who served in the Army and Army Reserves from 1994 to 2004, said she wondered why "our soldiers are serving this country in defense of our Constitution when Congress is doing nothing to stop Bush and Cheney and the Bush administration from denigrating our Constitution and our American way of life."

Others said Welch didn't have to choose between ending the war and impeachment and said Congress should hold the president and vice president accountable for what they believe were impeachable offenses.

At times the exchanges were testy. Welch was interrupted during his responses, and shouted at from the bleachers in the Hartford High School gymnasium. One of the final speakers threw a microphone in the air when asked to limit his testimony. But a majority at the meeting called for civil discourse.

Welch said he would deliver what he learned Saturday in a speech on the House floor about the grassroots impeachment movement in Vermont, and enter into the Congressional Record a letter from the mother of a fallen soldier.

Last month the state Senate adopted a resolution calling for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against the president and vice president. That action followed votes in 40 towns around the state that adopted similar resolutions at their annual town meetings in March.

Organizers said they hoped to hold future meetings with Welch on the topic, including one with Rep. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who introduced articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney. Welch said Saturday that he was there to hear their views on impeachment and not to schedule future meetings but said under pressure that he discuss the possibility, depending on his schedule.