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Moynihan Supports Censure

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  • Associated Press
    Saturday, December 26, 1998; Page A4

    The White House yesterday welcomed new signs that momentum is growing in the Senate for a penalty short of removing President Clinton from office.

    Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), who had not previously revealed his position, said in a published report yesterday that he favors censure of the president. Administration officials quickly expressed new hope for "a bipartisan solution" that would avoid a Senate trial.

    Moynihan, a scholar of the Constitution and American history, has often criticized Clinton. He told The New York Times that moves to oust Clinton threaten to "very readily destabilize the presidency."

    "We are an indispensable nation and we have to protect the presidency as an institution," Moynihan said. "There has to be a commander in chief. You could very readily destabilize the presidency, move to a randomness. That's an institution that has to be stable, not in dispute. Absent that, do not doubt that you could degrade the Republic quickly."

    Moynihan added that "you obviously can infer" that he supported censure.

    Earlier this week, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), the Senate's expert on the body's history and procedures, hinted that a censure could replace a trial. But he also said that: "For the good of our nation, there must be no deal involving the White House or any entity beyond the . . . U.S. Senate."

    Moynihan, who announced last month he would not seek reelection in 2000, holds particular credibility on the impeachment issue as one of the first Democratic senators to publicly criticize Clinton's behavior. Immediately following a dramatic speech by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), Moynihan took to the Senate floor to agree with his colleague in denouncing the president.

    Now, as the Senate prepares to consider charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, other senators agreed there is increasing bipartisan support for censure.

    "I think you do have a significant group of senators who are trying to work across the aisle and find some bipartisan common ground that the House wasn't able to locate," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in an interview.

    He said that based on conversations "every day" with Democratic and Republican senators, "I believe that there are 65 to 70 senators who would say, 'I would be open to a trial if it was fair and speedy, but I also want to use the time between now and Jan. 6 (when the Senate returns) to see if there might be some bipartisan approach we can find.' "

    A spokesman for the White House counsel's office, James Kennedy, welcomed these statements. "We've said all along a bipartisan solution that is prompt and fair is the best course and we welcome efforts by those who are trying to achieve that goal of finding a way of putting all this behind us," Kennedy said.

    The White House was careful to stick with a deferential approach, adopted after several Senate Democrats indicated that the administration best not interfere with impeachment deliberations that are solely the prerogative of the Senate.

    "It's a matter for the Senate and senators to decide," White House spokeswoman Amy Weiss said.

    It would take a two-thirds vote -- or 67 of 100 senators -- to remove the president from office. With 45 Democrats and 55 Republicans, at least 12 senators from Clinton's party would have to vote for his removal, a scenario few see as realistic.

    But Clinton's supporters worry about what could happen once a trial gets under way, and they are hoping for a quick resolution to the two articles of impeachment approved by the House.

    © Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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