Democrats Move to Withhold Funds From Cheney's Office
By Kim Chipman
July 10 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic senators moved today to cut off funding for Vice President Dick Cheney's office next fiscal year as part of a dispute over whether he must comply with rules for handling sensitive documents.
The Senate appropriations panel headed by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois approved by a vote of 5 to 4 a White House funding bill that would suspend the $4.8 million Cheney's office is set to receive until the vice president complies with parts of an executive order governing its handling of classified information.
Democratic lawmakers contend that Cheney's office blocked efforts by the National Archives to oversee its handling of sensitive documents by claiming it wasn't part of the executive branch. Cheney's aides said that because the vice president's office also has legislative power, it isn't solely an executive branch agency, according to Durbin.
``Serious questions have been raised recently about both the legality and the appropriateness of the vice president exempting his office from the rules that apply to all other executive branch officials,'' Durbin said today in a news release.
Durbin said he wrote Cheney on June 25 urging him to ``take corrective action'' before today's panel vote. There was no response, he said.
Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn responded today, saying: ``It's disappointing that Senator Durbin has chosen to spend the committee's time focusing on this when the House has clearly already expressed its unwillingness to go along with this political charade.''
House Rejected Move
The House of Representatives last month rejected a Democratic proposal to block funding for Cheney's office, as Republicans called the plan a stunt to embarrass the Bush administration.
The Senate measure, which still must go to the chamber floor for a vote, would apply to the fiscal year starting in October and would involve only Cheney's office, which employs about 25 staff members, said Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker. It wouldn't affect funding for Cheney's official residence, he said.
David Addington, Cheney's chief of staff, said in a June 26 letter to Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts that the vice president's office wasn't subject to oversight of its document handling because the executive order demanding the supervision applied only to federal agencies, which, he said, Cheney's office was not. Addington didn't repeat any claim the office wasn't part of the executive branch.