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'We Will Have a Bipartisan Senate Conference'

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  • Federal News Service
    Friday, January 8, 1999; Page A17

    Following are excerpts from a news conference by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) to announce a joint conference of the Senate this morning to discuss how to proceed with the impeachment trial of President Clinton:

    Lott: At 9:30 tomorrow [Friday] morning in the Old Senate Chamber, . . . we will have a bipartisan Senate conference so that we can talk to each other and listen to each other and understand what we're actually suggesting as to how we should proceed, because just in the last few minutes, as we talked, we found that there was either a misunderstanding what we were advocating or they were advocating or what the House was asking or what the Senate was offering. And we think that the best way to keep calm and cool and dignified is to look at each other and talk to each other. ... Does that solve all the problems? No. Is it an indication of our effort of now we want to proceed? Yes.

    Daschle: There was some question about whether we could come to some agreement on procedure, and so we had originally thought perhaps maybe one way to do it would be to offer our suggestions and just have a vote without debate. But we want to give it another effort, another 24 hours, or less, to see if we can't find a way to resolve how we can proceed, prior to the time we'd have a vote, on a way with which to conduct the trial.

    The vote now may be scheduled for 1 tomorrow afternoon, and that, of course, is subject to change, depending upon how our discussions go tomorrow morning. ...

    Lott: . . . Our caucuses . . . want to make sure that we were careful to try to do it right because what we are doing is historic. ...

    All we want to try to do is to make sure we have a process that is understood, that is as fair as we can make it to all parties, and that we are able to get to the truth and get to a vote in a reasonable period of time without trying to put a deadline or a date on it right now. ... We are trying to make sure our colleagues know what we are doing.

    Some of you may say, "Well, how come you haven't already decided that?"

    Remember, the full Senate just returned and was sworn in yesterday. Senator Daschle and I are not dictators; we are leaders that are getting some latitude by our conferences and our caucuses, but we have to bring along 98 other senators. We are struggling very hard to do that. ...

    One of the key sticking points, obviously, is witnesses: Democrats don't want to call any; Republicans at this point favor a plan that would have a vote on each proposed witness. ... Can you explain how you think you might be able to bridge that disagreement?

    Daschle: We [propose to] have a vote on witnesses, as part of the proposal, upfront. I think what Senator Lott may be proposing – and he can certainly speak for himself – is that we have a vote at some point later on. ...

    Lott: . . . After a reasonable time for presentation or justification for witnesses, then the Senate could work its will and vote, because every witness would have to be voted on. It would take 51. Neither side is interested in a cavalcade of witnesses, but we're trying to work through that area, where there is some disagreement as to when or exactly how it would be done. ...

    Are you going to include the White House and the House managers in whatever talks you have between now and your meeting tomorrow? And how important is it that those parties be on board whatever agreement you reach?

    Lott: We're trying to be delicate here. I mean, the White House has a right to be informed, to know what's going on. The House managers have a right to know what's going on or to express what their needs are on both sides. In the end, this is a Senate trial, and the Senate has to decide how to proceed and what the rules will be. ... I think it's fair that we at least keep them informed, without having them try to dictate. Either side.

    Daschle: . . . The Senate must stay in control of this process. We have to take into account the concerns and the needs of both the House and the White House, but ultimately it's our decision. ...

    A vote tomorrow may be called at 1, but before then, we will have a discussion, a bipartisan caucus, wherein we can discuss these matters and perhaps resolve the differences. ...

    What exactly will you be voting on tomorrow?

    Lott: Well, that's what we're working on now. ... The unique thing that we're announcing here today is that we're going to sit down together in a bipartisan conference. We'll be able to talk this through. . . . We believe that there will be a better feeling having understood each other. . . .

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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