Dick Cheney is not Darth Vader, but he may be a marine crustacean.

Or so it was proposed in this illuminating exchange from yesterday’s hearing of the House Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, in which Rep. Steve Cohen asks David Addington, the chief of staff and former counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney, whether the vice president belongs to the legislative or executive branch. (Because the vice president’s official constitutional role is as president of the Senate, Cheney has argued that he is not a member of the executive branch and therefore he is not covered by certain oversight laws.)

Addington:Sir, perhaps the best that can be said is that the vice president belongs neither to the executive nor to the legislative branch but is “attached by the Constitution to the latter,” closed quote. That’s from two legal opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice dated March 9th, 1961 and April, I believe it’s 18th, 1961…


Cohen: So he’s a member of the legislative branch?

Addington: No, I said “attached by the Constitution to the latter.” He is not a member of the legislative branch because the Constitution says that the Congress consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Constitution further says that the Senate consists of senators and the House of Representatives consists of representatives, and he is neither a senator nor–

Cohen: But he’s attached to the legislative branch?

Addington: That’s the quote I read to you.

Cohen: So he’s kind of a barnacle.

Addington: No, he is attached — the word was “attached by the Constitution to the latter.” I don’t consider the Constitution a barnacle, Mr. —

Cohen: No, the vice president, since he’s really not fish nor fowl, he’s just attached to something.

Addington: It’s not exclusive in the Constitution to have that situation.

Chairman: The time of the gentleman has expired.