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Partisan Wrangling Continues Over Gingrich Ethics Hearings

Jackson and Gingrich

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 12) -- Republicans renewed their push Sunday to hold ethics hearings on House Speaker Newt Gingrich's admitted transgressions by Jan. 21 -- making them coincide with President Clinton's inauguration.

But a leading Democrat said the GOP was rushing the hearings to "cover up" the violations.

Paxon

Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) suggested Sunday that the House Ethics Committee could hold public hearings starting Friday and culminating in a disciplinary vote the day after President Clinton's second inauguration.

"Then we will move on to do the people's business," Paxon added on CNN's "Late Edition."

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The Republicans control the House calendar. The tentative schedule Paxon outlined would squeeze the hearings between Thursday's deadline for special counsel James Cole to submit his report on the Gingrich investigation, and the Jan. 21 deadline for the ethics committee to recommend a punishment for any violations.

Gingrich narrowly won re-election to the speakership last week after admitting he misled the committee on whether he used charitable contributions to fund his political activities.

Frost

Cole, the special counsel, has said he can't do the report and hearings in one week, and needs until Feb. 4 to do both.

Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas) said on CNN's "Late Edition" that Republicans were threatening bipartisan cooperation by refusing to consider a more reasonable schedule for the hearings.

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And Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri), on NBC's "Meet the Press," renewed the call for Gingrich to step down, at least until his punishment is decided.

"Why are we rushing to get through this? I think it's only to cover it up," Gephardt said.

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But Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), also on NBC, said the Democrats' ulterior motive was to distract attention from President Clinton's problems, including Paula Jones' harassment allegations. The Supreme Court was to hear arguments Monday on whether Jones' harassment suit can be heard before Clinton leaves the White House.

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An Ethics Committee agreement to hear testimony from the start of this week fell through last week when Democrats objected to Republican insistence that the entire matter be completed by Jan. 21.

Gingrich himself, appearing on CNN's "Both Sides with Jesse Jackson," refused to respond to any questions dealing with ethics charges.

Newt

"Because I'm so controversial, then if my speakership is of any value, it ought to be to address the things that are at the core of where America goes," Gingrich said.

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Gingrich said he was talking with the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters, to improve communication between caucus members and Republican lawmakers.


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