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'Gang of Five' Opposed Any Inquiry

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  • Full Coverage: Clinton Accused

  • House Votes on Inquiry

  • By Guy Gugliotta
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, October 10, 1998; Page A11

    Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.), who's taking Spanish lessons to communicate better with his multiethnic constituency, has dubbed them La Ganga de los Cinco, the "Gang of Five" who voted Thursday against any impeachment inquiry of President Clinton.

    Of course, the real word is banda, as fellow Gang of Five member Rep. Jose E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) pointed out, but Serrano also noted that ganga is perfectly serviceable Puerto Rican slang and worked well for him in the streets of the South Bronx in the 1950s and 1960s.

    Besides Filner and Serrano, the five - all Democrats - who rejected both the Republican resolution of inquiry and their own party's alternative, also include Georgia Reps. John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney, and Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (Pa.). Every other House Democrat who voted Thursday opted to open some form of impeachment inquiry - either the over-by-Dec. 31 alternative promoted by the Democratic leadership or the Republican open-ended inquiry that passed with 31 Democratic votes.

    All of the five no-on-any-inquiry members have solidly Democratic constituencies. All but Kanjorski represent large concentrations of minority voters, and all either have token opposition this November or, in Filner's case, none.

    And all said they examined the evidence against Clinton and found it wanting. "From the beginning, I never thought this rose to the level of impeachment," Filner said. And if the inquiry is unfair, "I don't ever want to be in the position of having the Republicans say 'You voted for it.' I didn't vote for it."

    Serrano, who has the report of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr piled by his desk, decided the evidence it contained didn't warrant impeachment, and asked himself, "Should I go down this road and see if it is?

    "So I did what I do in situations like this," he added. "I talked to John Lewis."

    Lewis, one of the authentic heroes of the 1960s' civil rights movement, told him "if that's what you feel, and you think it's an issue of what is right and what is wrong, then vote your conscience."

    And that's what Lewis did too. "I just went with my conscience, my gut," Lewis said after the vote Thursday. "You have to live with yourself. I feel liberated. I feel free."

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