ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards



 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Transcript: House debate on launching impeachment inquiry

October 8, 1998

(Speakers identified in order of appearance)


For what purpose does the gentleman from Michigan rise?


I ask unanimous consent that the debate on House Resolution 581 regarding proceeding with an impeachment inquiry be expanded to the time of eight hours, sir.

GINGRICH: Now the chair is constrained not to recognize the gentleman for that purpose at this time.

The gentleman from Illinois.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE HENRY HYDE (R-IL), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Mr. Chairman, by direction of the Committee on Judiciary, I call up H. Res. 581.

GINGRICH: The clerk will report.

CLERK: House calendar number 272, House Resolution 581, resolved:

That the Committee on the Judiciary, acting as a whole or by any subcommittee thereof appointed by the chairman for the purposes hereof, and in accordance with the rules of the committee, is authorized and directed to investigate fully and completely whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States of America.

The committee shall report to the House of Representatives such resolutions, articles of impeachment or other recommendations as it deems proper.

Section 2. A: For the purpose of making such investigation, the committee is authorized to require -- one, by subpoena or otherwise, a) the attendance and testimony of any person, including at a taking of a deposition by counsel for the committee; and b) the production of such things; and two, by interrogatory the furnishing of such information as it deems necessary to such investigation.

B: Such authority of the committee may be exercised -- one, by the chairman and the ranking minority member acting jointly or, if either declines to act, by the other acting alone, except that in the event either so declines, either shall have the right to refer to the committee for decision the question whether such authority shall be so exercised, and the committee shall be convened promptly to render that decision; or two, by the committee acting as a whole or by subcommittee.

Subpoenas and interrogatories so authorized may be issued over the signature of the chairman or ranking minority member or any member designated by either of them and may be served by any person designated by the chairman or ranking minority member or any member designated by either of them.

The chairman or ranking minority member or any member designated by either of them or with respect to any deposition, answer to interrogatory or affidavit, any person authorized by law to administer oaths may administer oaths to any witness.

For the purposes of this section, "things" includes without limitation books; records; correspondence; logs; journals; memorandums; papers; documents; writings; drawings; graphs; charts; photographs; reproductions; recordings; tapes; transcripts; print- outs; data compilations from which information can be obtained, translated if necessary through detection devices into reasonably usable form; tangible objects; and other things of any kind.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker...

GINGRICH: The resolution, since reported form the Committee on the Judiciary, constitutes a question of privilege and may be called up at this time.

The gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker, while the normal procedure grants one hour's debate on a privileged resolution, I propose doubling that time and, therefore, I ask unanimous consent that I be recognized for two hours for the debate on H. Res. 581, one hour of which I intend to yield to Mr. Conyers for the purposes of debate only.

HYDE: And anybody on my side who was constrained to object, I hope they will withhold their objection so we can have the two hours of debate.

CONYERS: With the right to object, Mr. Speaker, I want to appreciate the unanimous consent that's being put forward, and ask my friend, the distinguished chairman of Judiciary, if he would add two hours to that request please. I understand the exigencies of the moment, but I have -- I have enormous pressure being put upon the ranking member for members to merely have a chance to get in a brief expression on this historic occasion. And I ask that the gentlemen give that his -- the most generous consideration.

HYDE: Well, I thank the gentleman, and I can only say that we've had extensive discussions, and I'm fearful that there would be several objectors to that. And so I am constrained to offer the extra hour only, and not go beyond that. I would suggest a special order tonight where everybody can speak as long and as loudly as they want.

GINGRICH: Is there objection to the gentleman from Illinois' request? Without objection, the gentleman from Illinois is recognized for two hours.

HYDE: I am pleased to yield one hour to the distinguished minority leader -- ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Conyers, for purposes of debate only. And I would like to recognize Mr. Solomon for purposes of a unanimous consent request.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE GERALD SOLOMON (R-NY): I certainly thank the gentleman, and I just rise in support of the resolution.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized.

SOLOMON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I just rise in support of the resolution to commend the Judiciary Committee and thank (OFF-MIKE).

GINGRICH: The gentleman will state his inquiry.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE CHET EDWARDS (D-TX): Mr. Speaker, considering the historical importance of this vote today and the precedent we will set for decades to come, would it be within the rules of the House for me at this time to ask unanimous consent that each member of this House who feels in his or her conscience he or she would want to speak for two minutes on this issue be allowed that opportunity as they try to represent the 560,000 people in their districts.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is not recognized for that purpose, and the House has already established by unanimous consent the two-hour time limit.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DINGELL (D-MI): Reserving the right to object, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: There is no point to be objected to at the present time, but I will be glad to recognize the distinguished gentleman from Michigan for a parliamentary inquiry.

DINGELL: I thank -- I thank you, Mr. Speaker. Then I will make this as a parliamentary inquiry.

Why is it that we are not being afforded more time to debate this? This is one of the most important questions...

GINGRICH: That is not a parliamentary inquiry, but that might be asked during debate if the gentleman gets time. Now, the gentleman from Illinois is recognized.


GINGRICH: The -- what -- the gentleman from New York for what purpose?

(UNKNOWN): I'd like to inquire if a unanimous consent request is in order.

GINGRICH: A unanimous consent request would not be in order at this time -- unless the gentleman from Illinois yielded for that purpose.

GINGRICH: Well, the gentleman...

(UNKNOWN): Would the gentleman yield?

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois controls the time...

(UNKNOWN): Would the gentleman yield for unanimous consent request?

HYDE: I must insist on regular order, or we won't get through with this, Gary (ph). So, I can't yield for unanimous consent.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois is recognized.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all members may have five legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks on the resolution under consideration. And I yield myself such time...


GINGRICH: Gentleman reserves the right to object.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE GARY L. ACKERMAN (D-NY): Mr. Speaker, we're just asking for fairness.

(UNKNOWN): Regular order.

GINGRICH: That's not -- does the gentleman from New York object?

ACKERMAN: In that case -- in that case, Mr. Speaker, I object.

GINGRICH: Objection is heard. The gentleman from Illinois.


HYDE: Mr. Speaker...

GINGRICH: (OFF-MIKE) is recognized.

HYDE: General leave was objected to.

GINGRICH: General leave was objected to.

The gentleman from Illinois controls the time and has recognized himself. Has yielded to himself.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

GINGRICH: Without objection.

HYDE: Today, we will vote on a 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 idea 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.

HYDE: 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 do not expect that I will agree with my Democratic friends at each step along the way, but I know that to date we have agreed on many things. In fact, we have agreed on many more things than is generally known. I hope, at the end of this long day, we will agree on the result.

I'm determined we will continue to look every day for common ground and to agree where we can. When we must disagree, we will do everything we can to minimize those disagreements. 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 interest, certainly not the public's interest.

As I've 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.

HYDE: 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.

I reserve the balance of my time.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Michigan is recognized.

CONYERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I yield to myself 10 seconds. And I really want to say to the chairman of judiciary, Henry Hyde, that I respect the fulsomeness and fairness of his statement. And I know that he is a person of his word. And I hope that these processes within our committee and the Congress will follow along the lines that you have outlined so admirably.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield to the principal architect of the alternative proposal to the motion on the floor that will be embodied in a motion to recommit, the distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Rick Boucher, for four minutes.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Virginia is recognized.


I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend these remarks.

GINGRICH: Without objection.

BOUCHER: I want to thank the gentleman from Michigan for yielding this time, and commend him for the leadership that he has exerted as we have worked on this side in order to offer a fair and a balanced alternative to the resolution of inquiry.

At the conclusion of this debate, I will offer a motion to recommit the resolution offered by the gentleman from Illinois to the Committee on the Judiciary, with the instruction that the committee immediately report back that resolution to the House with instructions that it contain our Democratic alternative.

While we would have preferred that Democrats have a normal opportunity to present our resolution as an amendment, the procedure that is being used by the House today does not make a Democratic amendment in regular course in order. The motion to recommit with instructions does, however, give us an opportunity to have the House adopt the Democratic plan.

The Democratic amendment is a resolution for a full and complete review by the Judiciary Committee of the material that has been presented to the House by the Office of Independent Counsel.

The Republican resolution also provides for that full and complete review. The difference between the Democratic and the Republican approaches is only over the scope of the review, only over the time that the review will take, and only over our insistence that the Judiciary Committee, in conducting its process, pay deference and become aware of the historical constitutional standard for impeachment that has evolved to us over the centuries, and was recognized most recently by the Judiciary Committee in 1974, and then recognized by the full House of Representatives.

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.

BOUCHER: 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 potential for such a venture should be strictly limited by the resolution adopted today by the House, and our Democratic proposal contains those appropriate limits. It would subject to the inquiry the material presented to us by the Office of Independent Counsel, which is the only material before the House 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.

The committee's work should not extend into next year. A careful and a thorough review can be accomplished between now and the end of this year. And our Democratic resolution provides that appropriate limitation on time.

The resolution requires that the committee hold hearings on the constitutional standard for impeachment, which was clearly stated in the conclusion of the committee's report in the Watergate years of 1974. Our substitute then directs that the committee compare the facts that are stated in the referral of the independent counsel to that historical constitutional standard. And if any facts rise to the level of impeachable conduct, that material would then be subjected to the thorough inquiry and review process contained within our resolution.

GINGRICH: The gentleman will suspend.

The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: I would yield the gentleman an additional half minute, Mr. Speaker.

BOUCHER: I thank the gentleman for yielding this time.

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.

BOUCHER: There would then be ample time for the House of Representatives to consider those recommendations and conclude its work by the end of this year.

The procedure we're recommending is fair. It is thorough. It is prompt. It is a recommendation for an inquiry. It would assure an appropriate scope. It would give deference to the historical constitutional standard for impeachment, and 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.

I thank the gentleman for yielding.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: I'm pleased to yield two minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Sensenbrenner, a member of the committee.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized for two minutes.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI): Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the resolution of inquiry. At Monday's meeting of the Judiciary Committee, investigative counsel David Schippers informed the committee that the material received to date shows that the president may have committed 15 felonies. These alleged felonies were in the course of the president successfully defeating Paula Jones' civil rights lawsuit -- claims the Supreme Court in a nine-to- nothing decision said that she had the right to pursue.

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.

Vote for the resolution. Let the Judiciary Committee try to find the truth. And I yield back to the gentleman from Illinois the balance of my time.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Michigan?

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to yield three minutes to a senior member of our Judiciary Committee, the able gentleman from New York, Mr. Charles Schumer.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized.


Mr. Speaker, this is a serious and solemn day. And after a careful reading of the Starr report and other material submitted by the office of the independent counsel, as well as a study of the origins and history of the impeachment clause of the Constitution, I have come to the conclusion that given the evidence before us, while the president deserves significant punishment, there is no basis for impeachment of the president, and it is time to move on and solve the problems facing the American people -- like health care, education, and protecting seniors' retirement.

SCHUMER: To me, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the president lied when he testified before the grand jury -- not to cover a crime, but to cover embarrassing personal behavior. While it is true that in ordinary circumstances and in most instances an ordinary person would not be punished for lying about an extramarital affair, the president has to be held to a higher standard and must be held accountable.

But high crimes and misdemeanors as defined in the Constitution and as amplified by the "Federalist Papers" and Justice Story (ph) have always been intended to apply to public actions relating to or affecting the operation of the government, not to personal or private conduct.

That said, the punishment for lying about an improper sexual relationship should fit the crime. Censure or rebuke is the appropriate punishment. Impeachment is not.

It is time to move forward, and not have the Congress and American people enjoy the specter of what could be a year-long focus on a tawdry, but not impeachable affair.

Today, the world economy is in crisis and cries out for American leadership, without which worldwide turmoil is a grave possibility.

The American people cry out for us to solve the problems facing them.

This investigation, now in its fifth year, has run its course. It is time to move on.

I yield back the balance.

GINGRICH: Gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield three minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. McHale.

GINGRICH: Gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE PAUL MCHALE (D-PA): Mr. Speaker, (OFF-MIKE) that the presidency is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership. I want my strong criticism of President Clinton to be placed in context.

I voted for President Clinton in 1992 and 1996. I believed him to be the man from Hope as he was depicted in his 1992 campaign video.

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.

MCHALE: Unfortunately, the president's misconduct has now made immaterial my past support or agreement with him on issues.

Last January 17th, the president of the United States attempted to cover up a sordid and irresponsible relationship by repeated deceit under oath in a federal civil rights suit.

Contrary to his later public statements, his answers were not legally accurate. They were intentionally and blatantly false.

He allowed his lawyer to make arguments to the court based on an affidavit the president knew to be false.

The president later deceived the American people and belatedly admitted the truth only when confronted some seven months later by a mountain of irrefutable evidence. I am convinced that the president would otherwise have allowed his false testimony to stand in perpetuity.

What is at stake is really the rule of law. 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.

The question is whether or not we will say to all of our citizens, including the president of the United States, when you take an oath, you must keep it. Having deliberately provided false testimony under oath, the president, in my judgment, forfeited his right to office.

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?

We cannot define the president's character, but we must define the nation's. I urge an affirmative vote on the resolution.


GINGRICH: Gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to recognize for 2 1/2 minutes Jerrold Nadler of New York, who co-authored the alternative proposal that we shall shortly offer this morning.

GINGRICH: Gentleman is recognized.


The issue in a potential impeachment is whether to overturn the results of a national election, the free expression of the popular will of the American people.

It's an enormous responsibility and an extraordinary power. It's not one that should be exercised lightly. It certainly is not one which should be exercised in a manner which is or would be perceived to be unfair or partisan.

The work of this House during the Nixon impeachment investigation commanded the respect and support of the American people. A broad consensus that President Nixon had to go was developed precisely because the process was seen to be fair and deliberate.

If our conduct in this matter does not earn the confidence of the American people, then any action we take, especially if we seek to overturn the results of a free election, will be viewed with great suspicion and could divide a nation for years to come.

NADLER: We do not need another who-lost-China debate. We do not need a decade of candidates running for office accusing each other of railroading a democratically elected president out of office or participating in a thinly veiled coup d'etat.

This issue has the potential to be the most divisive issue in American public life since the Vietnam War.

The process by which we arrive at our decision must be seen to be both nonpartisan and fair. The legitimacy of American political institutions must not be called into question.

I do not believe personally that all the allegations in this -- in this Starr report, if proven true, describe impeachable offenses. We need to remember that the framers of the Constitution did not intend impeachment as a punishment for wrongdoing, but as a protection of constitutional liberties and of the structure of government they were establishing against the president who might seek to become a tyrant.

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.

GINGRICH: The gentleman's time has expired.

NADLER: The Democratic amendment is a fair -- provides for a fair process. It provides for limitation in scope and time, and I urge its adoption.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Speaker, a point of order.

GINGRICH: The gentleman would make a point of order.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Speaker, this is a fairly important issue. It seems to me that if members are going to vote on it, the least they could do is be here in the chamber when it's debated. And I would hope that the leadership of both parties would be sending out messages to the members that whatever they're doing, they ought to drop it and get their tails here.



GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker, I now am pleased to yield 2 1/2 minutes to a distinguished member from Florida and a member of the committee, Mr. Canady.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized.


I rise today to support the Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry resolution -- a resolution which ensures that we expeditiously deal with the serious charges against the president in a process that is fair, thoughtful and deliberative.

CANADY: In this resolution, we follow the pattern and procedures established in the Nixon impeachment inquiry. This model served the House well in the Nixon case. It has stood the test of time, and there is no reason that we should abandon this model now.

The House should reject the unprecedented Democratic alternative with its unwise, arbitrary, and unrealistic limitations and restrictions on the ability of the Judiciary Committee to do its job. We must recognize that the Democratic alternative sets up a process that has never -- not once -- been followed in the more than 200-year history of impeachment under our Constitution. It is totally without precedent.

Now, some have claimed that the charges against the president do not amount to high crimes and misdemeanors. But the very report cited by the president's lawyers, which was prepared by the impeachment inquiry staff in the Nixon case, recognizes that conduct of the president which -- and I quote -- "undermines the integrity of office" is impeachable.

The unavoidable consequence of perjury and obstruction of justice by a president would be to erode respect for the office of the president. Such acts inevitably subvert the respect for the law, which is essential to the well-being of our constitutional system.

If perjury and obstruction of justice do not undermine the integrity of office, what offenses would?

Not long after the Constitution was adopted, one of the framers wrote: "If it were to be asked what is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of security in a republic, the answer would be an inviolable respect for the Constitution and laws. Those therefore who set examples which undermine or subvert the authority of the laws lead us from freedom to slavery. They incapacitate us for a government of laws."

Today, as members of this House, it is our solemn responsibility under the Constitution to move forward with this inquiry and to set an example that strengthens the authority of the laws and preserves the liberty with which we have been blessed as Americans.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: I am pleased now to recognize for 1 1/2 minutes a valuable member of the Judiciary Committee, Robert Wexler of Florida.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT WEXLER (D-FL): Mr. Speaker, God help this nation if today we become a Congress of endless investigation -- accomplices to this un-American inquisition that would destroy the presidency over an extramarital affair.

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.

God help this nation if we trivialize the Constitution of the United States and reject the conviction of our founding fathers that impeachment is about no less than the subversion of the government.

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman -- Mr. Speaker.


GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: The chair is pleased -- the chair -- I am pleased to recognize for two minutes the distinguished gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Hutchinson.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Mr. Speaker, today we are considering a resolution of inquire in the conduct of the president of the United States. It is not about a person, but it is about the rule of law.

Each of us took a simple oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution provides a path to follow in these circumstances. The path may not be well-worn, but it is well-marked. And we would be wise to follow it rather than to concoct our own ideas on how to proceed.

The gentleman from New York indicated that -- concluded that the president has lied under oath, that he should be punished, but he should not be impeached.

The gentleman is way ahead in his conclusion of where this process should be and where I am.

I would say that this process is not about punishment. The purpose of this process is to examine the public trust, and if it is breached, to repair it.

We have been referred serious charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power. The president and his lawyers have denied each of these charges as is his right to do. Our response should be that we need to examine these facts to determine the truth and to weigh the evidence. And it is our highest duty today to vote for this inquiry so that if the result is there are no impeachable offenses we can move on, but if there is more to be done, then we can assure that the rule of law will not be suspended or ignored by this Congress.

The Watergate model was chosen because that was what was demanded by my friends from across the aisle. This resolution does not direct the committee to go into any additional areas. But it does give the committee the authority to carry out its responsibility and to bring this matter to a conclusion without further delay.

It is my firm commitment as an Arkansan, as an American and as someone who has tried to work my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to be fair in every way in its search for truth.

Did the president participate in a scheme to obstruct justice? Did the president commit perjury? Do these allegations, if proven, constitute impeachable offenses? We can answer these questions in a fair and bipartisan manner, and that is my commitment.

People say this is not Watergate. That's true. Every case is different. But the rule of law and our obligation to it does not change.

They do not change because of position, personalities or power. The rule of law and justice depends on this truth. I ask my colleagues to support the resolution.

GINGRICH: Gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I yield now a minute and a half to the gentleman from Wisconsin, Tom Barrett.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized.


BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, many of the president's actions were wrong. In fact, they were indefensible. But our role today is not to attack him. Our role today is to make sure that this process is defensible. And this is not a defensible process.

This chamber spent a day, a little more than a day, debating renaming an airport, and we are spending two hours on deciding the future of this presidency. That is unfair.

There should be an inquiry. We should move on. But it has to be fair. And what we're seeing today is not fair. It is not focused.

We have a report from Kenneth Starr; we should focus our inquiry on the report and any subsequent matters Ken Starr brings us. We should have a target date of completion. We should aim to finish this by December 31st, and if we can't get it done, we can ask for an extension. And that can happen.

But the American people want this to be a fair process. And they're not stupid. And they recognize that this is not a fair process.

The president may be punished. The president should be held accountable for his actions. But we have a duty, each and every person in this chamber, has a duty to do that in a fair way.

+++ Elapsed Time 00:40, Eastern Time 11:36 +++

And I think each of us has to examine our conscience and ask whether we want to have a wide-ranging fishing expedition or whether we want to focus it on the report that's been brought to us and any subsequent matters the special prosecutor brings to us.

If we do that, I think we can do that on a bipartisan basis, and I think that will be fair, and that's what the American people want. I yield back the balance of my time.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to yield to the distinguished gentleman from California, Mr. Dreier, two minutes.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized.


GINGRICH: Without objection.

DREIER: Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a very difficult time for every member of this House. I think it was said first by Henry Hyde -- duty, duty, duty. The gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Barrett, just talked about duty.

But I think over and above our duty, I think it's important for us to recognize the words of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. McHale, who talked about the importance of the rule of law.

That really is why we're here. And over the past several weeks and months, a number of us have dusted off our copies of the Federalist Papers, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison -- James Madison being the author, the father of the Constitution.

Toward the end of the 51st Federalist, James Madison puts it perfectly as we look at the challenge that we face today. He said: "Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained or until liberty be lost in the pursuit."

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, if you would indulge me for a moment -- I would like to make a unanimous consent request that on the motion to recommit, that we be granted five minutes on each side for the purpose of comments. And I would -- for the purpose of debate -- and I would...

GINGRICH: The -- has the gentleman from Illinois yielded to the gentleman from Michigan for the purpose of that request?

HYDE: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I think five minutes on each side on the motion to recommit is justifiable, and I support the gentleman...

CONYERS: I thank my colleague.

HYDE: ... in his request.

GINGRICH: Without objection.

CONYERS: Thank you.

I would like now, Mr. Speaker, to recognize the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Steve Rothman, an able member of the committee on the Judiciary for 1 1/2 minutes.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized, and without objection, the gentleman's request is granted.


After a 4 1/2 year investigation of nearly every aspect of President Clinton's public and private life, Independent Counsel Ken Starr presented the House with 11 allegations of impeachment all relating only to the president's misconduct with Monica Lewinsky.

The Democrats say that these are serious allegations and that we should resolve these 11 charges by the end of this year. And let the chips fall where they may.

The Republicans say that they won't be limited to the 4 1/2 year investigation by Mr. Starr. They feel that Mr. Starr was too light on President Clinton, and so they want an impeachment inquiry not only limited to Mr. Starr's charges regarding Ms. Lewinsky, but any other charges anyone can come up with on any subject at anytime and with no time limit.

And they want the American people to pay for it.

I believe the Republican bill is unfair. It is unfair to the president. It is unfair to our country. And it is not in our national interest. We already know that what the president did was wrong. It was morally wrong, and now we need to decide what is an appropriate punishment for his offenses.

But let us reject the open-ended Republican inquiry. Let us instead follow the Democratic model and resolve the 11 charges that Mr. Starr actually brought to us and do so before the end of the year, so that we can get together as a nation and address the serious and important other issues that have faced us -- that face us here at home and around the world.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: The gentleman from Ohio, I'm pleased to yield two minutes to Mr. Chabot, a member of the committee.

GINGRICH: Gentleman's recognized.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE STEVE CHABOT (R-OH): Thank you. I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks (OFF-MIKE)...

GINGRICH: Without objection.

CHABOT: Thanks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I rise in support of the resolution. Our responsibility today is to determine if the evidence we have examined thus far warrants further investigation by the Judiciary Committee.

We do not sit in judgment today. We are not here to convict or punish or sentence today. We are here to seek the truth.

To fulfill our constitutional duty, we must determine if the evidence presented to date strongly suggests wrongdoing by the president and if the alleged wrongdoing likely rises to the level of an impeachable offense -- that is, a high crime or misdemeanor.

I would submit that strong evidence exists that the president may have committed perjury. And the historic record demonstrates that perjury can be an impeachable offense.

Based on the facts and on the law, this House has a constitutional duty to proceed to a formal inquiry.

Mr. Chairman, I think I speak for most of my colleagues when I say that this is not a matter to be taken lightly. Rarely in one's political life is one forced to confront such an awesome and historic responsibility.

It is my sincere hope that we can work together, as our founding father's envisioned in a bipartisan fashion to complete this task as expeditiously as possible and to do what is the best interest of the country.

I would urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to rise above the partisan fires that too often burn in our nation's capital, consider the facts at hand, and fulfill our constitutional responsibilities by moving forward with a fair and thorough investigation of this important matter.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.

GINRICH: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased now to yield to Zoe Lofgren of California, a member of Judiciary who has worked tirelessly on crafting a middle course for the members of the House of Representatives -- 2 1/2 minutes, sir.

GINGRICH: The gentlelady's recognized.


Mr. Speaker, many of us have labored very hard to craft a plan that would allow us to deal with the referral of the independent counsel in a way that is focused; in a way that is fair; in a way that's prompt and efficient; and most of all, in a way that puts our Constitution first.

I am very distressed to say that I do not see that that is going to happen today in these chambers. I fear that what Hamilton warned against -- Alexander Hamilton warned against in 65 Federalist Paper, that there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of the parties than the real demonstration of innocence or guilt, that prophesy, that fear is about to be realized.

I believe that the majority has used its raw voting power to create a proposal that could result in a wide-ranging and lengthy impeachment inquiry. The Judiciary Committee may become the standing committee on impeachments.

LOFGREN: And a further fear is that the rules in the Constitution may never be applied to the referral that has been sent to us, or even worse, we may end up, as happened Monday with the majority counsel, creating entirely new rules for high crimes and misdemeanors, which will have a very serious distorting effect on our constitutional system of government.

When we are lost, the best thing to do is to look to our Constitution as a beacon of light and a guideline to get us through trying times.

Impeachment historically was to be use

The question is are we going to punish America instead of him for his misconduct. Are we going to trash our Constitution because of his misconduct? Are we going to make sure that this investigation goes on interminably while we ignore economic crises, the need of our students for education? I fear that we have -- we are letting down our country.

You know, 24 years ago, as an idealistic student, I watched this body rise to the occasion...

GINGRICH: The time of the gentlelady...

CONYERS: An additional half minute, sir.

GINGRICH: The gentlelady is recognized.

CONYERS: Twenty-four years ago, as an idealistic young student, I worked on the staff of a member of the committee, and I saw the committee, and I saw this Congress do a very hard thing: come together, become nonpartisan, and do a tough job for America. And I am very concerned that instead of rising to this occasion today, we are falling down and lowering ourselves and America with it, and I urge the adoption of the Boucher amendment and yield back the balance of my time.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker...


Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield one minute to the distinguished gentlelady from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

GINGRICH: The gentlelady is recognized.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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.

Lying under oath and obstruction of justice are ancient crimes of great weight because they shield other offenses -- blocking the light of truth in human affairs.

ROS-LEHTINEN: They are a dagger in the heart of our legal system and our democracy. They cannot and must not be tolerated.

The office of the presidency is due great respect, but 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.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I yield to my friend and a senior prosecutor from Massachusetts, William Delahunt, 2 1/2 minutes.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized.


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 have 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 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.

Ken Starr is not the agent of the United States Congress. It is our responsibility.

I was going to go on and speak about the proposal put forth by the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Boucher -- one that would have addressed and would address all of the allegations raised in the Starr referral in a fair way, in an expeditious way, without dragging this nation through hearings that will be interminable in nature.

And what it really means to this country is all the president -- any of the president's enemies have to do to commence an impeachment process is to name an independent counsel, so that we can here just simply rubberstamp that independent counsel's conclusions.

DELAHUNT: I was going to speak about the letter that was referred to by the universally respected chairman of the committee, and a gentleman whom I hold in high esteem, Mr. Hyde -- the letter where Mr. Starr, saying that 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 will conclude by saying that one hour to begin only the third impeachment inquiry in U.S. history is a travesty, and a disgrace for this institution.

I think that says it all, and besides I'm probably out of time.


GINGRICH: The gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: I'm pleased to yield a distinguished member of the committee two minutes. The gentleman from Florida, Mr. McCollum.

GINGRICH: The gentleman is recognized, without objection.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE BILL MCCOLLUM (R-FL): The question for us today is not whether or not the president committed impeachable offenses or whether or not we're here to impeach. The question is -- Do the allegations that have been presented to us by Kenneth Starr in his report merit further consideration?

Some would have you believe today that, even if all of those allegations were proven to be true, that the answer is no. They are wrong. The issue before us, when we consider this matter, is not Monica Lewinsky. The issue is not sex. The issue is not whether the president committed adultery or betrayed his wife.

The issue is -- Did the president of the United States commit the felony crime of perjury by lying under oath in a deposition in a sexual harassment case? The issue is -- Did the president of the United States commit the felony crime of perjury by lying under oath to a grand jury? The issue is -- Did the president of the United States commit a felony crime of obstructing justice? Or the felony crime of witness tampering? And if he did, are these high crimes and misdemeanors that deserve impeachment?

I would suggest these are extraordinarily serious, that if the president of the United States is to be judged not to have committed a high crime and misdemeanor -- if the facts are proven, and we don't know that, that these things are true and he committed these crimes -- but if he is judged not to have committed a high crime and misdemeanor for committing these other crimes of perjury, we will have determined that, indeed, he is no longer the legal officer at the highest pinnacle of this country, because to leave him sitting there is to undermine the very judicial system we have. It is to convey the message that perjury is OK -- certainly, at least, perjury in certain matters and under certain circumstances.

It is not OK. It is a very serious crime. Obstructing justice is; witness tampering is. One hundred and fifteen people are serving in federal prison today who may be watching these proceedings today -- serving in prison for perjury. Two judges have been impeached since I've been in Congress for nothing more than in perjury -- committing perjury, as we call it.

MCCOLLUM: What do we say in the future to all of those people who take the oath of office who say, I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? What do we say to all those people who swear to tell the truth, nothing but the truth, and the whole truth when they are witnesses in cases throughout this country's -- civil and criminal? And what do we say to all of the people whom we may judge in the future who may be judges or otherwise who come before us who commit perjury?

Is it OK? If we leave this president alone if he committed these crimes, then we have undermined our Constitution and we have undermined our system of justice. This is serious. We need to investigate these allegations.

GINGRICH: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to recognize the departing chair of our caucus, the gentleman from California, Vic Fazio for two minutes.

GINGRICH: The gentleman's recognized.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE VIC FAZIO (D-CA): Mr. Speaker, today's proceeding is of such great historical importance that it should be approached with a deep and abiding respect for the Congress, the Constitution and the presidency.

We had the opportunity to develop a fair and responsible process that would protect not only the dignity of the office of the presidency, but create a precedent worth following.

But I believe the Republican majority has squandered that, and by doing so, has set in motion a process that is too much about partisanship and not enough about statesmanship.

The Republican proposal offers no limits on how long this partisan inquiry will go on nor on how long Independent Counsel Ken Starr can drag up issues that he's had four years to bring to this House.

Sadly, there has been no willingness to limit the duration or scope of this resolution.

The Republican proposal moves ahead with an impeachment inquiry before the Judiciary Committee has even conducted a review of the facts and determined whether those facts constitute substantial and credible evidence. It lowers the threshold for which a president can be harassed and persecuted to the point of distraction from his constitutional duties.

From now on, any Congress dissatisfied with the policies of a particular administration or the personal behavior of any president could simply conduct an ongoing, costly and distracting inquiry designed to dilute the authority of the presidency.

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, across the aisle to the other party to make this House work and to get things done for this country.

I fought partisan battles. I've stood my ground on issues that matter to my district. The American people expect us to do that.

But they also expect us to, each of us, to rise above the base political instincts that drive such a wedge through this institution. 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 who have respect for law, for fairness and due process. In the end, we must do a lot better than we will do today.


GINGRICH: Gentleman from Illinois.

HYDE: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to yield to a distinguished member of the committee, the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Barr 2 1/2 minutes. The gentleman yield to me very briefly?

BARR: I'd be happy to yield to the distinguished chairman of the Judiciary Committee.


Investigating the President


Thursday, October 8, 1998

Search CNN/AllPolitics by infoseek
          Enter keyword(s)       go    help

© 1998 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.
Who we are.