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Democrats Go After Cheney’s Budget

With Vice President Cheney refusing to comply with an executive order requiring federal agencies to disclose how they have dealt with classified information, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) is trying to take aim at Cheney where it hurts: the pocketbook.

Emanuel said he has the backing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) to offer an amendment to the financial services and general government appropriations bill, which funds the vice president’s office, that would hold the funds until Cheney’s office is fully declared to be part of the executive branch, Emanuel said. The measure is expected to come to the floor Wednesday.

Otherwise, Cheney would be limited to a small amount of funding available to him as the president of the Senate.

“You took a position, it has financial consequences, that’s all,” Emanuel said Monday, outlining a choice for the vice president. “He won’t get to fund one office and say he’s in another.”

Megan McGinn, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said, “Congressman Emanuel has a choice as well. He can either deal with the issues facing this country or he can create more partisan politics.”

Cheney refused to comply with an order requiring executive agencies to submit reports on the safeguarding of classified information on the basis that he is not an “entity within the executive branch,” prompting a sternly worded letter from House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) last week.

Emanuel said it’s Congress’ job to bring some accountability to Cheney.

“He has consistently acted as if there is no accountability. I’m half of a mind to charge him to republish all of the eighth-grade textbooks” that say the vice president is part of the executive branch, Emanuel said.

The financial services bill provides $4.75 million in fiscal 2008 for the Office of the Vice President, the amount requested by President Bush.

Emanuel asked if Cheney is in the legislature because of his role as president of the Senate, “Does that mean the Senate ethics rules apply to him? Where does it stop?”

The Senate, meanwhile, may follow suit. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Emanuel’s proposal “serious.”

“I much prefer Vice President Cheney just comply with the law,” he said. “It’s something I would seriously consider, given his intransigence. It may be one of the only resorts we have.”

Even if Congress were to pass such a restriction on the funding, it could merely add to the list of presidential vetoes of appropriations bills. Bush already has threatened to veto bills that exceed his spending requests, and the financial services bill was one of the few that came in slimmer than requested.

Schumer, who has led the probe into the firing purge of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006, also demanded that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recuse himself from making a decision about whether Cheney had to comply with the executive order. “An attorney general who put rule of law above politics would have ruled on this months ago,” Schumer said. “I think most Americans would have very little faith in his ability to render a decision impartially.”

Impeachment of Cheney still appears to be off the table as far as Democratic leaders are concerned, despite efforts by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and a few other Members as well as many party activists.

“That’s not where we are,” Emanuel said.

Rachel Van Dongen contributed to this report.