Vice President Dick Cheney won't lose his home, his office and his entertainment expense account after all.
The House on Thursday rejected an attempt to eliminate the vice president's executive office budget, a move that Democrats tied to Cheney's assertion that his office didn't need to comply with national security disclosure rules required of other executive branch agencies.
Republicans denounced the proposal as political theater.
The vote, on an amendment to a 2008 spending bill for the Treasury Department and executive branch agencies, was defeated 217-209.
"We are pleased to see a bipartisan majority reject this political stunt," said Cheney spokeswoman Megan McGinn.
‘Undisclosed fourth branch’
Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., author of the amendment, said it was the logical outgrowth of the vice president's claim that his office was outside the scope of rules imposed on other executive offices.
"Perhaps the vice president thought he occupied an undisclosed fourth branch of government," Emmanuel said.
The proposal would have withheld about $4.8 million in the budget for the vice president's official residence, his office and for other expenses including the hiring of passenger vehicles and entertainment expenses. He would still have received a smaller budget for his role as president of the Senate.
The latest dispute between the Democratic Congress demanding information from the White House and a vice president with a penchant for secrecy came when Cheney said his office was exempt from sections of a presidential order that executive branch offices provide data on how much material they classify and declassify.
Cheney's office, with backing from the White House, argued that the offices of the president and vice president were exempt from the order because they are not executive branch "agencies."
‘Secrecy over sunshine’
Emanuel, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, recalled the previous conflict over Cheney's reluctance to reveal details of meetings with oil executives to discuss energy policy. "At every step of the way, he has chosen secrecy over sunshine, obstruction over accountability," Emmanuel said.
"It's not a serious amendment," scoffed Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri. "This amendment is an amendment in search of a press release."
Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, warned Democrats that "it might come back to haunt you at some time in the future" when a Democrat holds the vice presidency. "Because some members may not like the current vice president, or any future vice president, doesn't mean Congress should use its power of the purse to eliminate funding for the office."
In yet another flashpoint between Democrats and Cheney, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said Thursday that the House Natural Resources Committee panel will hold a hearing into the role Cheney may have played in the 2002 deaths of about 70,000 salmon near the California-Oregon border.
Rahall, chairman of that committee, said Cheney's part in developing a 10-year water plan for the Klamath River, reported Wednesday by The Washington Post, resulted in the largest adult salmon kill in the history of the West.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesdayissued subpoenas to the offices of President Bush, Cheney and others demanding documents on the warrantless wiretapping program.