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'Follow the Truth Wherever It Leads'


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Text of House Resolution on the Impeachment Inquiry

House Votes on the Impeachment Inquiry


Friday, October 9, 1998; Page A22

Following are excerpts from statements of House members debating a recommendation by the Judiciary Committee to allow the committee to begin a formal impeachment inquiry into President Clinton's conduct. The Republican motion called for an inquiry that was open-ended in time and scope, while many Democrats argued for limiting the inquiry.

Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.):
Today we will vote on an historic resolution to begin an inquiry into whether the president has committed impeachable offenses. All of us are pulled in many directions by our political parties, by philosophy and friendships. We're pulled by many competing forces, but mostly we're moved by our consciences. We must listen to that still small voice that whispers in our ear, "Duty, duty, duty."

Some years ago Douglas MacArthur in a famous speech at West Point asserted the ideal of our military forces as duty, honor and country. You don't have to be a soldier in a far-off land to feel the force of those words. They are our ideal here today as well. We have another ideal here: to attain justice through the rule of law. Justice is always and everywhere under assault, and our duty is to vindicate the rule of law as the surest protector of that fragile justice.

And so here today, having received the referral and 17 cartons of supportive material from the independent counsel, the question asks itself: Shall we look further, or shall we look away?

I respectfully suggest we must look further by voting for this resolution and thus commencing an inquiry into whether or not the president has committed impeachable acts. We don't make any judgments. We don't make any charges. We simply begin a search for truth. You will hear from our opponents that, yes, we need to look further but do it our way. Their way imposes artificial time limits, limits our inquiry to the Lewinsky matter, and requires us to establish standards for impeachment that have never been established before, certainly not in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, which we're trying to follow to the letter.

We have followed the Rodino format. We will move with all deliberate speed. Many raise concerns about that proposition. Let me speak directly to those concerns. Some suggest the process to date has been partisan; yet every member of the Judiciary Committee voted for an inquiry in some form. We differ over the procedural details, not the fundamental question of whether we should go forward.

Many on the other side of the aisle worry that this inquiry will become an excuse for an open-ended attack on this administration. I understand that worry. During times when Republicans controlled the executive branch and I was in the minority, I lived where you're living now. With that personal experience, I pledge to you the fairest and most expeditious search for the truth that I can muster. . . .

I hope at the end of this long day we will agree on the result. . . . At all times, civility must be the watchword for members on both sides of the aisle. Too much hangs in the balance for us not to rise above partisan politics.

I will use all my strength to ensure that this inquiry does not become a fishing expedition. Rather, I'm determined that it will be a fair and expeditious search for truth. We have plenty enough to do now; we don't need to search for new material.

However, I can't say that we will never address other subjects, nor would it be responsible to do so. I don't know what the future holds. If substantial and credible evidence of other impeachable offenses comes to us, as the independent counsel hinted or suggested in a letter we received only yesterday, the Constitution will demand that we do our duty. Like each of you, I took an oath to answer that call. I intend to do so, and I hope you will join with me, if that day comes. I don't think we want to settle for less than the whole truth.

Some are concerned about timing. Believe me, nobody wants to end this any sooner than I do. But the Constitution demands that we take the amount of time necessary to do the right thing in the right way. A rush to judgment doesn't serve anybody's interests, certainly not the public's interests. As I have said publicly, my fervent hope and prayer is we can end this process by the end of the year. That's my New Year's resolution. However, to agree to an artificial deadline would be irresponsible. It would only invite delay and discourage cooperation. For those who worry about the timing, I urge you to do everything possible to encourage cooperation. No one likes to have their behavior questioned. The best way to end the questions is to answer them in a timely and truthful manner. Thorough and thoughtful cooperation will do more than anything to put this matter behind us. . . .

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.):
The public interest requires a fair and deliberate inquiry in this matter. Our resolution provides for that fair and deliberate inquiry. But the public interest also requires an appropriate boundary on the scope of the inquiry. It should not become an invitation for a free-ranging fishing expedition, subjecting to a formal impeachment inquiry matters that are not before the Congress today. . . . The public interest also requires that the matter be brought to conclusion at the earliest possible time that is consistent with a thorough and a complete review. The country has already undergone substantial trauma. If the committee carries this work beyond the time that is reasonably needed to conduct its complete and thorough review, that injury to the nation will only deepen.

We should be thorough, but we should also be prompt. . . . Given that the facts of this matter are generally well known, given that there are only a handful of witnesses who have relevant information that can be addressed in this inquiry, and given the further fact that all of those witnesses have already been the subject of extensive review by the grand jury and their testimony is available, this inquiry can, in fact, be prompt. . . .

Under the resolution that we are putting forth, the committee will begin its work on the 12th day of October – that's next Monday – and will conclude all proceedings, including the consideration of recommendations, during the month of December. . . . It would assure that this matter is put behind us so the nation can proceed with its very important business by the end of this year.

   


Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.):
. . . The president denies all these allegations. Obviously, someone is telling the truth, and someone is lying. The Judiciary Committee must be given the power to decide this issue.

What's at stake here is the rule of law. Even the president of the United States has no right to break the law. If the House votes down this inquiry, in effect it will say that even if President Clinton committed as many as 15 felonies, nothing will happen. The result will be a return to the imperial presidency of the Nixon era, where the White House felt that the laws did not apply to them, since they never would be punished. That would be a national tragedy of immense consequences. . . .

Rep. Paul McHale: (D-Pa.):
. . . I voted for President Clinton in 1992 and 1996. . . . I have voted for more than three-fourths of the president's legislative agenda, and I would do so again. My blunt criticism of the president has nothing to do with policy. Moreover, the president has always treated me with courtesy and respect, and he has been more than responsive to the concerns of my constituents.

Unfortunately, the president's misconduct has now made immaterial my past support or agreement with him on issues. . . . When the president took an oath to tell the truth, he was no different at that point from any other citizen, both as a matter of morality and as a matter of legal obligation. We cannot excuse that kind of misconduct because we happen to belong to the same party as the president or agree with him on issues or feel tragically that the removal of the president from office would be enormously painful for the United States of America. . . .

It was with a deep sense of sadness that I called for his resignation. By his own misconduct, the president displayed his character, and he defined it badly. His actions were not inappropriate; they were predatory, reckless, breathtakingly arrogant for a man already a defendant in a sexual harassment suit, whether or not that suit was politically motivated. And if in disgust or dismay we were to sweep aside the president's immoral and illegal conduct, what dangerous precedent would we set for the abuse of power by some future president of the United States? . . .

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.):
The president's acts, if proven true, may be crimes calling for prosecution or other punishment, but not impeachment. So I do not believe we need a formal impeachment inquiry.

But if we are to have an inquiry, it must be fair.

So far, it has been anything but fair. The president was not given the Starr report before it was made public, a violation of all the precedents. No debate on the committee occurred on the merits whatsoever. We spent the month on deciding what should be released and what should be kept in private. And then we heard the report of the two counsels, and then we discussed procedure, but not a minute of debate on the merits, on the evidence, on the standard of impeachment, on anything. And now, the supreme insult to the American people: an hour of debate on the House floor on whether to start for the third time in the American history a formal impeachment proceeding. We debated two resolutions to name post offices yesterday for an hour and a half. An hour debate on this momentous decision: an insult to the American people, and another sign that this is not going to be fair.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.):
. . . The global economy is crumbling, and we're talking about Monica Lewinsky!

Saddam Hussein hides weapons, and we're talking about Monica Lewinsky!

Genocide wracks Kosovo, and we're talking about Monica Lewinsky!

Children cram into packed classrooms, and we're talking about Monica Lewinsky!

Families can't pay their medical bills, and we're talking about Monica Lewinsky! . . .

The president betrayed his wife. He did not betray the country. God help this nation if we fail to recognize the difference.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.):
. . . Our laws promise a remedy against sexual harassment. But if we say that lying about sex in court is acceptable or even expected, then we have made our sexual harassment laws nothing more than a false promise; a fraud upon our society, upon our legal system and upon women. . . .

The president is a citizen with the same duty to follow the laws as all other citizens. The world marvels that our president is not above the law, and my vote today helps assure that this rule continues. With a commitment to the principles of the rule of law which makes this country the beacon of hope for political refugees like myself throughout the world, I cast my vote in favor of the resolution to undertake an impeachment inquiry of the conduct of the president of the United States.

Rep. William D. Delahunt (D-Mass.):
. . . I'm aware of the fact that there is limited time for this debate. I think that is indeed unfortunate, because I was going on to talk about how we've abdicated our constitutional duties to an unelected prosecutor, how we have released thousands of pages that none of us, in good conscience, can say that we've read, how we've violated the sanctity of the grand jury so that we can arrive here today to launch an inquiry without an independent, adequate review of the allegations by this body, which is our constitutional mandate. . . .

And what it really means for this country if all any president's enemies have to do to commence an impeachment process is to name an independent counsel so that we can here just simply rubber stamp that independent counsel's conclusions.

I was going to speak about the letter that was referred to by . . . Mr. Hyde, the letter where Mr. Starr [is] saying where he may make further referrals and keep this inquiry going on indefinitely. That's not a process, Mr. Speaker, it's a blank check. That's what I was going to talk about. But out of deference to others that want to speak, I'll conclude by saying that one hour to begin only the third impeachment inquiry in U.S. history is a travesty and a disgrace to this institution. I think that says it all. And besides, I'm probably out of time.

Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.):
. . . After this election, when rational behavior returns and cooler heads can prevail, I urge us to forge a way to rise above the nasty politics that have clouded this body.

I won't be here with those of you who return to the next Congress. I leave, after 20 years, with my self-respect intact. I've reached across the lines within my own party and, when necessary, cross the aisle to the other party, to make this House work and to get things done for this country. I've fought partisan battles. I've stood my ground on issues that mattered to my district. The American people expect us to do that. . . .

In the months ahead, we must find a way, my friends, to do what is right for America, to find a way to return this House to the people, through respect for law, for fairness and due process. In the end, we must do a lot better than we will do today.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.):
Mr. Speaker and members, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus have constantly warned this body about the dangers of a prosecutor run amok. They have warned this body about the abuse of the power of the majority. We ask you to listen to us as we remind you of the history of our people, who have struggled against injustice and unfairness. Let us not march backwards, let us be wise enough to move forward and spend our precious time working on the issues of education, health care, senior citizens, children, and in the final analysis, Mr. Speaker and members, justice and opportunity for all Americans.

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.):
. . . Of course, we do want to move along to important issues facing the country. We do want to restore freedom in health care. We do want to secure the future of Medicare and Social Security, and we do want to continue the progress toward balancing the budget. All of those things we want to do.

But I would ask my colleagues to consider this: Really, this is the crucial business of the country. This is the crucial business. As we go into the next century, the question is does the truth even matter?

Now, some would say just move along. It doesn't matter. Just move along. But if you move along, what you're leaving aside is serious allegations of serious crimes. . . .

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (R-Ohio):
. . . I rise today not on behalf of Democrats or Republicans, but as an American who is deeply concerned that our country bring closure to the charges against the president. A vote for an inquiry is not the same as a vote for impeachment. This vote is neither a vote to impeach nor a license to conduct a partisan witch hunt. In fact, some have called for impeachment without a hearing. And some have called for resignation without a hearing. And some have called for exoneration without a hearing.

I believe there will be no resolution without an open hearing. And there will be no accountability without an open hearing. And there will be no closure for this country, for this Congress, or for our president without an open hearing. The nation is divided, and the House is divided. And a house divided against itself will not stand. So if inquire we must, let's do it fairly. . . . Let the president make his case. Give him a chance to clear his name and get back to his job. Bring everything out in the open. Bring forward the accusers and subject them to the light of day. Settle this, and then move forward to do the business of the people. . . .

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.):
. . . The Republicans don't want to impeach him; wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot political pole. They know at the end of this year that this Congress is over and they even want to carry this over for the next two years, to attempt to hound this president, who's been elected twice, out of office.

And the reason for it is because it's the only thing that they have to take to the American people before this election. What else are they going to take? Your legislative record? You know, the fact that you have renamed National Airport after Ronald Reagan. You have deep-sixed the tax code to the year 2002. On the question of Social Security, what have you done? Tried to rape the reserve. What have you done as it relates to minimum wage and providing jobs? What have you done for education? What have you done for the health of the people in this nation?

Well, you're not just going to get elected by hounding the president of the United States, because as you judge the president of the United States, the voters will be judging you on November the 3rd.

   


Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.):
. . . I believe that this nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law. Sometimes hard, sometimes unpleasant, this path relies on truth, justice and the rigorous application of the principle that no man is above the law.

Now, the other road is the path of least resistance. This is where we start making exceptions to our laws based on poll numbers and spin control. This is when we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us, when we ignore the facts in order to cover up the truth.

Shall we follow the rule of law and do our constitutional duty no matter unpleasant, or shall we follow the path of least resistance, close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking, forgive and forget, move on and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system? No man is above the law, and no man is below the law. That's the principle that we all hold very dear in this country.

The president has many responsibilities and many privileges. His chief responsibility is to uphold the laws of this land. He does not have the privilege to break the law. . . .

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.):
. . . Let me say to my constituents and the evangelicals, I've been in my churches as well. We believe in redemption. And yes, the president has sinned. But those of you who want to rise and cast the first stone, my question is: Who has not sinned? And whatever we do today, those of us who have received death threats in our office, attacks against our children because of the hysteria that has been created by this Congress, I simply ask that we give this proceeding fairness, judiciousness, and follow the Constitution.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):
. . . At the start of this Congress, the Republican majority gave you, Mr. Speaker, the highest honor this House can bestow, the speakership. For the freshman Republicans, this was the first vote that they cast in this House. The Republican majority did this after you, Mr. Speaker, were charged with, and admitted to, lying under oath to the ethics committee about the conduct of your political affairs.

How inconsistent, then, Mr. Speaker, for this same Republican majority to move to an impeachment inquiry of the president for lying about his personal life. Our Republican majority have said lying under oath is a dagger in the heart of the legal system. We all agree that lying is wrong. But why the double standard? . . .

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.):
. . . Amid the intense glare of the moment, we must keep in mind that what the House is considering today is not impeachment or articles of impeachment, nor is it about matters for which the president has apologized. Rather, the House must decide, in light of the documented allegations of serious crimes committed by the president, all of which the president has repeatedly denied, whether we should take the next step in the constitutional process by fully and completely investigating whether the charges are well-founded. And I urge my colleagues to take that step because it is the right thing to do. We must follow the truth wherever it leads. . . .

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.):
Mr. Speaker, the real question here today is not whether to begin an inquiry but whether it will ever end. Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate – it's really "Rabbit Trailgate" that I'm concerned about. We do not need Ken Starr squared in this chamber. The only way to force this Congress to get back to the real concerns of American families like tax reform and Social Security reform is to bring this matter to a prompt conclusion.

As a former [Texas] Supreme Court justice, I will not defend the indefensible. But by golly, there is a way to punish the lying without punishing the American people who have clearly had enough of this and then some. And Mr. Speaker, I believe that the standard that we apply should be no higher and no lower than we would apply to ourselves and that we have applied to you, sir, in this very chamber. . . .

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.):
. . . We move today, Mr. Speaker, not by any standard but by the seat of our pants. We are a constitutional democracy, not a parliamentary republic. A vote of no confidence in Great Britain requires no standard but calls forth a new election. A vote for an impeachment inquiry in the United States requires a high standard because it could nullify an election. Mr. Speaker, the president's misconduct may warrant an inquiry, but neither he nor any other American deserves an inquisition. . . .

Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.):
. . . Earlier today, one of my colleagues said that this would be the most divisive issue since the Vietnam War. While he may believe that to be true, I take strong exception with that, and I'll tell you why. Men and women were sent overseas like every other war or military conflict since our nation's birth, to defend the rule of law, the notions of personal freedom and individual liberty.

And in the case before us today, we're asking a simple question: "Did the president of the United States violate any of those rules of law that we cherish and that so many men and women have died for and are willing to die for at every point around the globe?"

I don't want to be here today, like so many of my colleagues. But the generations of Americans yet unborn must look back on this day in this matter, in this situation, and see this as our finest hour. . . . Reluctantly, I am here. I proudly, though, support this resolution.

Rep. Patsy T. Mink (D-Hawaii):
. . . We have been beseeched today on both sides of the aisle to follow the rule of law, to follow the Constitution. I ask each of you here to understand that the seat which you occupy in this august chamber has a constitutional limit which expires on January 3rd. What right have we to extend this investigation beyond our term of office? That's all that we are saying on this side of the aisle – there must be a limit. This investigation must end by the end of the year. . . .

We also say that under the Constitution we have to know what the rules are. Exactly what is the standard of conduct which is impeachable? The Constitution says impeachable requires a definition of high crimes and misdemeanors and talks about treason and bribery. The Judiciary Committee has not had one day of hearings to help this country or this Congress to understand what constitutes an impeachable offense, so how can we vote today on an inquiry which has no standards, no rules of conduct, no time limit? . . .

Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the members and to my ranking member for giving me this full 20 seconds to address the American people. It's unfair. It's unconstitutional. And it's unfortunate that we're here today. The highest office in this country, not protecting the Constitution, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Rep. Carrie P. Meek (D-Fla.):
I want to thank this Congress. I love you very much, but it's very apparent that from the very beginning you have not wanted William Jefferson Clinton as your president. You have gotten a path to do it and you're on your way! But the American people are watching you. They know that this process is unfair. And wherever something is unfair, there's an old saying that goodness and justice shall prevail.

So, you keep going. Your time will come.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.):
. . . It is disappointing to see this debate degenerate into a cacophony of catcalls. Honest people can have honest disagreements. But I take strong exception, Mr. Speaker, to the notion that somehow this is unconstitutional. Quite the contrary. This follows the Constitution. Incumbent upon every member of this House today is the most important responsibility short of the responsibility of a declaration of war, because we have to begin the process to determine the fitness for office of our chief executive. There is no reason to let this degenerate into catcalls or into the spin cycle. Let us follow the Constitution, let us follow the procedures laid down by those who have gone before, let us not confuse the issue trying to superimpose ethics rules of this House on the constitutional process. Vote for the inquiry of impeachment. . . .

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.):
. . . This resolution does not allow us to even set standards. When we don't have standards, we become as a modern day kangaroo court. What we have – I was arrested myself the other day, and when I was arrested for the immoral practices of the Supreme Court in hiring minority law clerks, I knew that I had a right to a speedy trial. I knew the elements of the crime that were against me. That's not here. Dr. King once said that justice – a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. My fellow Americans, this is not about disjustice for President Clinton, this is about justice for all of the American people!

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.):
. . . My colleagues, the people of the United States are wise and fair. They understand that the president's conduct, the president's lies, the president's behavior was wrong and immoral and reprehensible. But they are wise. And I want to appeal to you, my colleagues, as a woman, as a mother, as a grandmother, and as a lawmaker: Let us have a formal rebuke of this behavior, but then let us move forward in this House, because I want to make it very clear that we believe it is immoral not to be rebuilding our schools, not to be taking care of our children, not to be focusing on health care, and not to preserve Social Security and Medicare. . . .

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.):
. . . We should be standing here debating the future of Social Security. We should be standing here debating health care. We should be standing here debating education for our children and how we can protect the environment. Instead, we are participating in a political charade.

Republicans want to do what they could not do in an election: defeat Bill Clinton. Well, I have news for you. The American people are watching. Beware the wrath of the American people, Mr. Speaker, beware!

   


Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.):
. . . People constantly ask me where do I get the strength to be a member of Congress at this difficult time in my life, and I have to tell you that the strength boils down to a day in Lake Tahoe, still, where I had to kneel down before my two children, Chesare and Chianna, and tell them about the death of their father.

And while they looked at me, it was through their eyes that they gave me the strength that I'd needed to go on and to do the right thing. I think it is now the time that we, perhaps, look at all of our children's eyes – look at their eyes for the strength that we need to go forward and to do the right thing.

This is about the truth and it is about the Constitution . . . and I think all of this perhaps is nothing more than the noise of being dragged . . . kicking our way to the truth. . . . And when we have that, perhaps this will end up being nothing more than the sound that is made when a leader falls off of his pedestal. . . .

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.):
To my Republican friends, sincerely: Gerald Ford has said that we must take the path back to dignity; and I want that to weigh on your hearts for this next hour, because more is at stake than the president's fate.

Moving with dispatch, Gerald Ford said, the House Judiciary Committee should be able to conclude a preliminary inquiry into possible grounds for impeachment before the end of the year.

I think that we can do it. Our resolution calls for it. . . . I just want you to know that in my view, the American people have a deep sense of right and wrong, of fairness and privacy. And I believe that the Kenneth W. Starr investigation may have offended those sensibilities. . . . Do we want to have prosecutors with unlimited powers, accountable to no one, who will spend millions of dollars investigating a person's sex life? Is that the precedent we're setting? Who then haul them before grand juries – every person that they've known – 15 more seconds, Mr. Speaker – of the opposite sex, a person that they had contact with, and then record and release videos to the public of the grand jury questioning the most private aspects of one's personal life? Please, I beg you not to denigrate this very important process. . . .

Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Calif):
. . . When serious and credible allegations have been raised against any president, the Constitution obliges us to determine whether such conduct violated that president's obligation to faithfully execute the law. We must make this determination, or else forever sacrifice our heritage that no person is above the law. This Congress must decide whether we as a nation will turn a blind eye to allegations respecting both the subversion of the courts and the search for truth. . . .

I fear for my country when conduct such as perjury and obstruction of justice is no longer viewed with approbrium but instead is viewed as a sign of legal finesse or personal sophistication. . . .

Rep. David E. Bonior (D-Mich.):
. . . Today, we have an obligation to proceed in a manner that is fair, that upholds our constitutional duties and allows us to get this matter over with so we can get on with the business of the American people.

Unfortunately, the Republican proposal meets none of these standards. It is unfair; it is unlimited, and it prolongs this process indefinitely. Under the Republican plan, Congress will spend the next two years mired in hearings, tangled in testimony and grinding its gears in partisan stalemate. And today is just another example of that partisanship, that unbridled partisanship. There are 435 members that serve in this body, more on the floor today than I've seen in a long time, representing each about a half a million people. And what has happened in this proceeding today? Two hours of debate. Two hours – members having to go and beg for 20 seconds to talk to their constituency about one of the most important votes they will ever have to cast. . . .

This is a charade of justice. The American people, through this truncated debate, are being railroaded. Today's proceedings are a hit and run.

The Republican leadership's long-term strategy is very, very clear. Drag this thing out, week after week; month after month and yes, year after year, not for the good of the country, but for their own partisan advantage. . . .

If the Republicans spend two years dragging this investigation out, when will they deal with education . . . with HMO reform? . . . When will you strengthen Social Security?

Chairman Hyde:
I'm very sorry that you feel you were shortchanged on the debate. As you know, under the rule, and under the Rodino format, you were entitled to one hour. We doubled that. I didn't think that was fair. But we could have gone on and on and much of the same thing said over and over again. But it would be too much for me to expect appreciation for doubling the time, but the hostility – (interrupted by cheers and applause).

Let me suggest to you who think this is going to go on. . . . We're out of business at the end of the year. Our money runs out. And if we're to continue, if there's anything to continue, we would have to reconstitute ourself. I don't want this to go one day longer than it has to. Believe me, this is very painful, and I want it ended. We're not going to go on and on and on. . . .

Now look, this is not about sexual misconduct any more than Watergate was about a third-rate burglary. It was about the reaction of the chief executive to that event. Nixon covered it up and got in the direst of trouble. The problem with President Clinton's situation is a reaction, which – we believe and we want to find out; and if we don't get the information, we'll reject it – caused him to lie under oath.

Now, lying under oath is either important, or it isn't. If some people can lie under oath and others can't, let's find out. If some subjects are 'lie-able' – that is, you can lie about them – and others are not, let's fine-tune our jurisprudence that way.

But if the same law applies to everybody equally, that's the American tradition. And that's what we're looking at. This has not anything to do with sex; it has a lot to do with suborning perjury, tampering with witnesses, obstructing justice, and perjury, all of which impact on our Constitution and our system of justice and the kind of country we are.

The president of the United States is the trustee of the nation's conscience. We are entitled to explore fairly, fully, and expeditiously the circumstances that have been alleged to compromise that position. We'll do it quickly. We'll do it fairly. ... It's an onerous, miserable, rotten duty, but we have to do it, or we break faith with the people who sent us here.

The Democrats then introduced a motion calling for approval of the impeachment inquiry but instructing the Judiciary Committee to return its results to the full House in time for the House to act on them by Dec. 31. Debate continued.

Rep. Boucher:
. . . The motion . . . offers a framework for a full and a fair review by the House Judiciary Committee and a full and a fair review by the House of Representatives. It assures that we give deference to the historical constitutional standard for impeachment which has evolved to this House over two centuries. It assures ample time to consider carefully any of the facts that are contained in the referral sent to us by the office of independent counsel which rise to that constitutional standard. It assures that the entire matter will be resolved promptly and that the nation is not distracted by a prolonged inquiry. Some members, Mr. Speaker, would prefer that there be no review. Some would have us investigate for more than a year a wide range of matters. The resolution that we're offering through this motion to recommit steers a middle course. . . .

Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.):
. . . It's almost a month to the day that we stood here and debated whether or not to release the materials that Ken Starr had sent to the Congress. And I tried to say at that time that this was a time of utmost importance to us as a House of Representatives and to all of us as a people.

I said then, and I repeat today, that we are engaged now in what I believe to be a sacred process. We are considering whether or not to ultimately, if we get that far, overturn an election voted on by millions of Americans to decide who should be the chief executive officer of this country.

The last time we did this, Barbara Jordan, who I think really became the conscience of the period, said this, she said, "Common sense would be revolted if we engaged upon this process for petty reasons. Congress has a lot to do. Pettiness cannot be allowed to stand in the face of such overwhelming problems." She said, "So today we are not being petty, we are trying to be big because the task before us is big." I said the other day that this is a time to be bigger than we really are. We're all human.

We all make mistakes. We all give in to pettiness and pride. We all give in to doing things wrong for the wrong reasons. But this is a time when our Constitution and our people ask each of us to reach inside of ourselves, to be bigger and better than we really are.

In my view, we shouldn't have two resolutions – or a resolution and amendment – out here today. I believe if we had succeeded in what we should be doing, we would have one resolution, agreed to by all 435 members, today. The question, you see, is not whether to have an inquiry, the question today is what kind of inquiry will this be? . . .

Now, Mr. Hyde has said, and I believe Mr. Hyde, that we should do this by the end of the year. But he also said New Year's promises sometimes get broken. Mr. Hyde has said that we should not be on a fishing expedition.

But others in the party I've heard, even leaders in the party, the Republican Party, have said, 'Well, we've got to look at Travelgate and we've got to look at Filegate and we've got to look at campaign finance, and we've got to look at the Chinese rocket sales. And you say it again.

I've really thought a lot about this. I've really thought a lot about it. I've tried to think to myself, what is our problem? And I think I've identified it. Our problem is we don't trust one another.

You say that if you use our language, that we're not going to do what we say we're going to do, that we're going to drag it out, that we're going to try to frustrate the purpose of having this inquiry. And all I say is, we have put our words and our actions to follow that belief. We have said if there are other referrals, we will take them up. We have said that if we get to the end of the year and we need more time, that you can come to the floor and more time will be granted. You run the House.

But when we see your resolution, we don't see trust because the words that we're looking for – that we're going to try to get this over by the end of the year, that we're going to try to stick with these referrals and not go into everything under the sun and drag it out for two years and it be a two-year political fishing expedition – those words are not there.

Finally, let me say this. We're all profoundly hurt by what the president has done. He has deeply disappointed the American people and he's let us all down. But this investigation must be ended fairly and quickly. It has hurt our nation and it's hurt our children. We must not compound the hurt.

I've asked every Democratic member in these last days, I have asked every member to search their heart and their conscience and to vote for what in their heart and their mind and their conscience they think is right. And I come to the floor today to ask every Republican member to do the same. . . .

Rep. Sensenbrenner:
Mr. Speaker, the question before us in this [Democratic] motion to recommit is whether we should make ourselves slaves to the clock or attempt to find out the truth. And let there be no mistake about it, nobody's conduct is under investigation here but that of the president of the United States.

And if he did not commit the allegations that have been sent forth to us by the independent counsel, we would not be faced with discharging our awesome constitutional responsibilities. This should not be a race against the clock. . . .

Now, my friends on the other side of the aisle have said that this will be a never-ending investigation, and they haven't read the 20th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The 105th Congress goes out of business on January 3rd, 1999. This resolution expires with the 105th Congress and would have to be renewed by a vote of the House on the opening day of the 106th Congress.

So all of the arguments over here have been about just three days. . . .

The Democratic motion failed, 236 to 198.

The House then voted on the Republican motion, which passed 258 to 176.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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