Moran to Back Impeachment Inquiry
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 8, 1998; Page B12
Northern Virginia Rep. James P. Moran Jr. said yesterday that he will vote for an impeachment inquiry of his longtime ally President Clinton even if the decision hurts his own reelection chances.
"I figured this is a vote that had to stand the test of time," Democrat Moran said. "I can't base it on polls or political expediency, or even because of pressure from my colleagues or the leadership of the House."
Moran said Clinton should have the chance to defend himself against the allegations in a public forum, but Moran agreed with local Republicans who said his decision could turn some Democratic voters against him.
"It hurts me with my Democratic base," he said. "Calls are running 10 to 1" to his office against the decision to vote for the inquiry, Moran said.
Some political analysts see Moran's decision as a shrewd move intended to help stave off a challenge from Republican Demaris H. Miller in the 8th Congressional District. Local Republican Party officials criticized Moran for trying to distance himself from Clinton.
"I hope that Jim Moran continues to be the slick politician on this," said Richard S. Neel, chairman of the 8th District GOP committee. "He's alienating everybody by doing this, and it's giving Demaris an opening."
Moran, who is seeking his fifth term in office, has joined several other Democrats who broke ranks and announced that they would support the inquiry into whether Clinton should be impeached. The House is expected to vote on the resolution today.
Meanwhile, Rep. Constance A. Morella, of Montgomery County, who has been one of Clinton's most consistent Republican supporters in Congress in recent years, plans on voting in favor of proceeding with the impeachment inquiry, according to a spokeswoman.
The possibility of impeachment hearings has become an issue in her predominantly Democratic district as Morella runs for a seventh term in office.
Her Democratic opponent, former civil rights lobbyist Ralph G. Neas, spoke out last week against impeachment hearings, arguing that Clinton's "morally indefensible" conduct deserves a censure but does not constitute grounds for impeachment.
Morella has said the process needs to continue, but she also has pointed out that an inquiry could exonerate Clinton.
Moran's decision comes as he faces an energetic challenge from Miller, who, like other Republicans, has pounced on the Clinton scandal. Yesterday, Miller accused Moran of continuing to flip-flop on the issue, noting that Moran called for the president's resignation and then voted against the release of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's report.
"He votes not to release the report, but now he is going to vote for an inquiry?" Miller said. "I do wish he would make up his mind."
But Mark J. Rozell, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania's Washington Center, said Moran has been consistently critical of Clinton since the president admitted Aug. 17 to misleading the public.
Moreover, Miller is not likely to persuade voters to turn against Moran in Northern Virginia's most liberal district, which includes Arlington, Alexandria and parts of Fairfax County.
"He's hailing from a heavily Democratic-leaning district where I would imagine there is a lot more skepticism of the independent counsel's report" than about the president's behavior, Rozell said. "I don't see him in a very tough race, which gives him a little more leeway to talk his mind than if he is in a tight race."
Miller lags far behind in campaign fund-raising -- $149,695 raised for Miller as of July 15 and $379,471 raised this year for Moran -- as well as cash in hand, which showed Moran with $728,280 compared with Miller's $51,672.
Craig Bieber, executive director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the safer move for Moran in a campaign where he is viewed as a clear favorite would have been to stay silent.
"Probably the safest thing to do is to keep quiet on all this, but the guy has courage of conviction to speak out, even if that means getting some flack from Democratic voters on this issue," Bieber said. "That's just the way he is."
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