Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (Va.) is considering whether to quit the Democratic Party and become an independent, his aides and other sources say.

The 53-year-old Goode--who regularly breaks with his party and was one of five Democrats to vote in favor of President Clinton's impeachment--could announce a decision as soon as Monday.

The switch would complicate the Democratic Party's effort to retake the House this fall, requiring them to win six more seats rather than five to win back control of Congress.

Goode, who was elected to Congress in 1996 after 23 years in the Virginia Senate, spoke to his predecessor, former representative L. F. Payne Jr. (D), about his thoughts on switching parties last Friday.

"He is leaning toward being a Democrat or toward being an independent, but I'm not sure which way he's going to come down on that," said Payne, who is keeping Democratic leaders apprised of Goode's thoughts. "That's just my read on a conversation I had with him last week."

"My fondest hope is that he does run as a Democrat and I have encouraged him in that way," Payne added.

Goode last month fueled speculation about a potential party switch when he attended a fund-raiser in his district for 2000 Republican Senate candidate George Allen. Goode lost a primary challenge in 1994 to Allen's opponent, Sen. Charles S. Robb Jr., winning 34 percent of the vote.