House Democrats, responding to Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that his office is exempt from certain national security disclosure requirements, said Tuesday they will try to strip his office's funding.
The proposal to eliminate funding for Cheney's office would come as an amendment to an annual spending bill, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. This amendment may come up on the House floor either late tonight or tomorrow.
Cheney set off protests from Democrats when he declared that his office was exempt from sections of a presidential order that executive branch offices provide data on how much material they classify and declassify. The White House agreed, saying that Cheney's office was exempt from the reporting order because it was not intended to treat the vice president's office as an executive branch "agency."
According to Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Cheney not only violated Executive Order 12958 by blocking the National Archives from conducting security inspections in his office, his staff also sought to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office.
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., sponsor of the de-funding amendment, noted that five years ago Cheney claimed executive privilege in refusing to release details about his meetings with oil industry executives to discuss energy policy.
"Now when we want to know what he's doing as it relates to America's national security in the lead-up to the war in Iraq and after the fact, the vice president has declared he is a member of the legislative branch."
Therefore, Emanuel said, "we will no longer fund the executive branch of his office and he can live off the funding for the Senate presidency." The vice president presides as president of the Senate.
Hoyer, asked if the amendment would pass, said, "I don't know about that." But he said "we shouldn't fund him in both branches. I think there's going to be consideration of an amendment and that will be discussed."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaking Sunday on Fox News Sunday, said Cheney's move was "the height of arrogance." She said it might not be a bad idea that money for Cheney's office be held up until he decides whether or not he's in the executive branch.
Cheney's spokesperson Lea Anne McBride said Emanuel's amendment was "pure politics."
In a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding yesterday, in which he disputed White House claims that Cheney's actions were above board, Rep. Waxman criticized the administration's handling of classified information and security issues, writing that executive staff regularly blocked inspections by security officials checking for compliance with security rules; regularly ignored security breaches reported by Secret Service or CIA agents; and mismanaged the White House Security Office.
In addition, Mr. Bush's top political advisor, Karl Rove, had his security clearance renewed although it was prohibited under guidelines signed by Mr. Bush himself, given Rove's leaking of classified information in the Valerie Plame affair.
Waxman repeated a request for interviews with certain White House officials, and said he would seek subpoenas if they were not forthcoming.