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Gingrich Says He'll Stay on Sidelines

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  • By Juliet Eilperin
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, December 9, 1998; Page A20

    Outgoing Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said yesterday he will not preside over the floor debate next week on articles of impeachment against President Clinton. But the man who replaced Gingrich after midterm election setbacks for Republicans, Bob Livingston (R-La.), isn't expected to wield the gavel, either.

    Gingrich told reporters at a holiday party he will "just cast my vote quietly" on the matter and will not sit in the speaker's chair to oversee the debate. "I think the gavel passed when Bob got voted on in the conference," he said.

    Gingrich's on-again, off-again interventions in the early stages of the impeachment inquiry served as political fodder for Democrats in the election and Livingston has sought to stay removed from the impeachment fray since then. Livingston's office declined to comment on the matter yesterday, but GOP leadership sources said he is unlikely to preside over the historic vote.

    Instead, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) said yesterday he received a call from Gingrich's office Monday asking whether he would be willing to stand in. "I told them I've always considered it an honor and a privilege to preside over the House, and I'd be available if they needed me," said LaHood, who has spent extensive time presiding since he began serving in 1995. "I feel very comfortable doing it. My track record speaks for itself in terms of fairness."

    According to a GOP leadership aide, it has been the "working assumption" that LaHood will preside: "He does a good job of handling parliamentary things that might come up in the course of a controversial debate."

    Gingrich said yesterday he had not followed the White House's defense closely. "Nope, I'm going to ask Henry Hyde to summarize in three sentences or less at the appropriate time," he said, adding that he disliked the degree to which politics had dominated the inquiry. "It saddens me you can reduce a constitutional issue to a matter of partisanship."

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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