By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 29, 2007
The House voted yesterday to allow Vice President Cheney to keep his house, entertainment budget and sundry other entertainments, when a measure to withhold the money to pay for them failed.
The provision sprung from a dust-up last week, when Cheney's office, explaining why it had not complied with federal rules on filing classified documents, said the vice president's office was not strictly part of the executive branch, since Cheney presides over the Senate, in the legislative branch. His aides have since revised that claim, but by then it had taken on a life of its own, including in the House, which was about to vote on a bill that included funding for his office.
Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) seized the moment: He reasoned that if Cheney is not part of the executive branch, then the spending bill funding that branch need not bother with his office. Emanuel's amendment, had it passed, would have yanked about $4 million spent annually to pay for Cheney's house, its upkeep, his transportation and his entertainment budget.
In a floor speech recalling well-known examples of Cheney secrecy, and the vice president's justifications for it: "There have been 46 vice presidents in U.S. history, and not one of them knew this or ever claimed this position. Perhaps the vice president thought he occupied an undisclosed branch of government."
In a spirited debate, Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) warned Democrats to "remember you may have a vice president, too" and "be careful what you wish for," to which Emanuel responded that "the vice president is all of our vice president."
Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) wondered aloud whether he could make himself into an executive branch official, to get "a security detail and all that." Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Tex.) postulated that if Cheney is now part of the legislative branch, "that means that we can expel him." Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) called Emanuel's proposal "an amendment in search of a press release," then corrected himself by saying, "It is an amendment that's following a press release."
The amendment failed, 217 to 209.