Clinton Losing Moderate Republicans
Clinton Losing Moderate Republicans
Dec. 15, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ On the brink of an impeachment showdown, President Clinton suffered a steady loss of support from House Republican moderates on Tuesday and weighed advice to make an explicit, last-minute confession of wrongdoing to stop the slide.
``No one is above the law, not even the president,'' Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut said as she joined the ranks of Republicans favoring impeachment and a Senate trial for the nation's 42nd chief executive.
On a day of almost unrelenting gloomy news for the White House, one GOP lawmaker floated a proposal for Clinton to make a $2 million payment and accept a toughly worded censure resolution to avoid the humiliation of becoming only the second president to be impeached.
``Even at this late date, there are compelling reasons to pursue a different course with a better solution for our nation,'' wrote Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware.
But Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., the incoming House speaker, said he believed censure is beyond the House's prerogative. And in comments to reporters, he made it clear he expects rank and file Republicans _ regardless of their views on impeachment _ to uphold procedural rulings on the floor that will deny lawmakers a vote on any punishment short of impeachment.
Votes were expected by Friday at the latest in a post-election session of Congress unlike any other. Among those entitled to vote are 37 lawmakers who are closing out their congressional careers, some voluntarily, others because they were defeated.
They range from Rep. Sidney Yates, an 89-year-old Illinois Democrat who is retiring after nearly a half-century in office, to Rep. Jay Kim, a California Republican who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and was voted out of office in a primary election earlier this year.
The House will debate four articles of impeachment, alleging perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power in connection with Clinton's effort to cover-up his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Not since Andrew Johnson in 1868 has a president been impeached by the House. Johnson's case went to the Senate for trial, and he was acquitted by a single vote.
It is widely assumed that Clinton also would win acquittal in the Senate. But one Democrat, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, offered a word of caution, saying: ``As far as I know, hardly any of my colleagues in the Senate have said how they would vote.''
Clinton's chances of escaping impeachment in the House dimmed during the day, as he flew back to Washington from the Middle East and Vice President Al Gore telephoned wavering Republican lawmakers.
New York Republican Rep. Jack Quinn jolted the White House when he announced he was reversing positions and would support impeachment.
``My decision is based on the clear evidence of perjury and obstruction of justice as presented by the House Judiciary Committee in the last week,'' he said.
Others who weighed in for impeachment included Reps. Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota, Jim McCrery of Louisiana, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Tom Campbell of California, Anne Northup of Kentucky, and Herbert Bateman of Virginia. Also, three more New Yorkers whom the White House had sought: Reps. Michael Forbes, Sue Kelly and John McHugh.
``I don't think there is anything more that the president or the White House can do on this issue,'' Forbes said as he declared his intentions.
Democrats insisted that enough lawmakers remain uncommitted on the articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee to give the president an escape hatch from the latest, gravest crisis of his career.
And Livingston said the issue was not yet settled. ``I think it's going to be very close,'' he said. He left little doubt about his own feelings, saying, ``We do not have a king. We do not have a president by divine right.''
An Associated Press telephone survey of House members found 150 lawmakers said they would support impeachment, 163 said they would oppose it, 88 remained undecided, and 34 wouldn't answer or didn't return phone calls. The totals include members who said they were leaning toward a position.
White House Chief of Staff John Podesta traveled to the Capitol for a strategy session with Democratic defenders of the president.
Sources familiar with the situation said one option was for the president to meet with a small group of key Republican moderates on Wednesday to make a personal appeal.
Others were urging the president to make an appearance on Capitol Hill, even though there were logistical hurdles to such a strategy. ``The president can make his case in person before the full House better than anyone,'' former White House special counsel Lanny Davis said.
Whatever strategy Clinton settles on, Republicans and Democrats alike said the president would have to move beyond his former, vaguely worded apologies to have a strong chance of avoiding impeachment.
As recently as last Friday, the president apologized from the Rose Garden for misleading the nation about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Dogged nonetheless by impeachment questions on his overseas trip, Clinton at one point said he would not admit to perjury because he didn't believe he was guilty of it.
In one sign of the dimming hopes at the White House, presidential lawyers have quietly begun researching procedures for a Senate impeachment trial, several officials said Tuesday.
Castle's letter offered a glimmer of hope for the president, but a punishing one.
He called for a strong resolution of censure ``stating precisely the charges against the president, as well as a declaration that Clinton could face criminal charges and civil suits after he leaves office. Those measures ``must be combined with an agreement by the president to pay financial restitution of no less than $2 million in part for the costs incurred as the result of his wrongful actions,'' Castle wrote.
At the White House, spokesman Barry Toiv said: ``The partisan nature of this becomes clear with each member who steps up to the microphone to make their announcement.''
He added, though, ``We are still working very hard to try to achieve a bipartisan solution _ a bipartisan compromise _ and we'll continue to do that.''
One suggestion for heading off a protracted Senate trial came from former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, whom Clinton defeated in the 1996 race for the White House. Regardless of the outcome of how the House votes on impeachment, Dole proposed that Congress pass legislation to censure Clinton, who be required to sign it in the presence of the principal leaders of the government, including the vice president, members of the Cabinet, congressional leaders and members of the Supreme Court.