Category: Archive

U.S. Irish policy now in Senate’s lap

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Irish-American Democrats are mustering to defend President Clinton in the wake of last Saturday’s House vote to impeach the "best friend Ireland ever had in the White House."

Clinton’s fate — and that of his groundbreaking Irish policies — are now in the lap of the U.S. Senate, a political house where he undoubtedly has enemies but, not least in an Irish context, close friends and allies as well.

A standout in this regard is Sen. Edward Kennedy, whose deal-making abilities in the Senate are the stuff of legend. Reports have also indicated a likely bridge building role for Vermont’s Sen. Patrick Leahy, a moderate who has the sympathetic ear of Democrats and Republicans alike.

Another Irish-American Democrat already speaking prominently with regard to what happens next is Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Dodd.

NBC reported last weekend that North peacebroker George Mitchell could be acting as a link between the White House and GOP senators. Mitchell is the former Senate Majority leader and has long-standing relations with most of the Senate’s GOP members.

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As expected, the Republican tide in the House was not stopped by Rep. Pete King and the handful of other GOP congressmen, including Connecticut’s Christopher Shays, who rejected impeachment in favor of censure.

Several GOP members with strong records on Ireland voted with the majority. Friends of Ireland chairman Rep. Jim Walsh voted with his party on three of the four impeachment articles placed before the House.

Rep. Jack Quinn of Buffalo also voted for three, while New Jersey’s Chris Smith, a fierce critic of Britain’s human rights record in Northern Ireland, voted for all four. Two were ultimately approved by the House.

Rep. Ben Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee and a co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs, voted for two articles of impeachment.

However, Gilman followed up by joining three fellow representatives in writing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott urging that Clinton be censured and not impeached in any upcoming Senate trial.

"I’m not convinced that the president should be removed," Gilman was quoted as saying in a New York Times report.

Outside Congress, Irish Americans are also circling the wagons around the beleaguered president.

The New York branch of the Washington, D.C.-based group Irish American Democrats is to hold a fund-raiser on Jan. 20 at the law office of O’Dwyer and Bernstien in Manhattan.

The event, hosted by attorneys Brian O’Dwyer and Frank Durkan, "will," according to a release, "raise funds for Democratic members of Congress in the [New York] Metropolitan area who supported the President and to defeat those Republicans in the Metropolitan area who voted to impeach William Jefferson Clinton."

In a joint statement, O’Dwyer and Durkan, who also chairs the Americans for a New Irish Agenda lobby group, expressed outrage at "so-called moderate Republicans" who had voted to impeach "the best friend Ireland ever had in the White House and would jeopardize the peace process for narrow, partisan and vindictive reasons."

The statement continued: "We wish these Republican congressmen, many of who purport to be a friend of Ireland, had shown the courage of Representatives Peter King and Christopher Shays.

"Many in the community have voiced their outrage to us and we feel that the best way that they can voice their anger is by attending the fund-raiser and working to defeat those members of Congress who have brought about the impeachment," O’Dwyer and Durkan concluded.

The statement was released before the letter to Lott bearing Rep. Gilman’s signature was reported.

Meanwhile, AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney described the House impeachment vote as "the disgusting conclusion of a single-minded, hate-driven, partisan stampede to oust a president twice elected by working families to pursue an agenda on their behalf."

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