TOPICS > Politics

Voting to Continue

January 27, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


KWAME HOLMAN: Republican senators entered the Capitol this morning knowing they had enough vote to chart the course of the impeachment trial through its final days. But with 67 votes needed to convict, they also know it will take members from both parties to remove the president from office. Back-to-back votes were schedule for 1o’clock, the first on senate Democrats’ motion to end the trial; the second on the House managers’ motion to be allowed to depose three witnesses.

SEN. MITCH McCONNELL, (R) Kentucky: Remember what this vote is this afternoon. This is a vote about deposing three witnesses. I haven’t even made a final decision about whether I think we need any live witnesses. So it seems to me this is a very modest, reasonable request on the part of the House managers and that’s why I haven’t given up hope that maybe on that vote we’ll have a broad bipartisan support.

KWAME HOLMAN: But an hour before the votes, Democrats still hadn’t given up trying to attract Republican support for their position.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, (D) Connecticut: My hope is that there are still some members who will take this opportunity to end this national agony and bring this trial to an end. Those who vote otherwise must understand that this trial could go on far longer than some may hope beyond next Friday, or even further down the road, if we allow this national tragedy to continue to proceed on the floor of the United States Senate.

KWAME HOLMAN: Senators had just completed a second night in closed session debating the need to depose witnesses; setting out procedures for such depositions would await the outcome of today’s votes.

WILLIAM REHNQUIST: The question occurs on the motion to dismiss the impeachment proceedings offered by the Senator from West Virginia, Mr. Byrd. The yeas and nays are required. The clerk will call the roll.

CLERK: Mr. Abraham?


CLERK: Mr. Abraham, no.

KWAME HOLMAN: All 100 senators sat at the voting began on the motion to end the trial immediately. Many senators stood to deliver their votes.

CLERK: Mr. Enzi.


CLERK: Mr. Enzi, no. Mr. Feingold. Mr. Feingold, no.

KWAME HOLMAN: Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the only Democrat to vote against an immediate end to the trial. No Republican voted for dismissal and the motion failed.

WILLIAM REHNQUIST: On this vote, the yeas are 44, the nays are 56, the motion is not agreed to.

KWAME HOLMAN: The senate moved immediately to the motion to depose the three witnesses requested by the House managers: Monica Lewinsky, Vernon Jordan, and White House aide Sidney Blumenthal.

CLERK: Mr. Feingold, aye.

KWAME HOLMAN: Once again, Feingold of Wisconsin was the only senator to break ranks with his party and the witness motion was approved.

WILLIAM REHNQUIST: On this vote, the yeas are 56, the nays are 44, the motion is agreed to.

KWAME HOLMAN: Majority Leader Trent Lott immediately asked the senate recess.

SEN. TRENT LOTT: We’re attempting now to clarify exactly how this will proceed and to reach agreement with regard to the remaining procedure and the beginning of the deposition process. We’re acting in good faith but we want to make sure we’re at least going to try to think about all contingencies and we’re exchanging resolutions and suggestions between Senator Daschle and myself at this time.

KWAME HOLMAN: Minutes later, Daschle, followed by a group of senate Democrats, said he would work with Lott but that as far as he was concerned, the matter of convicting the president had been settled.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Forty-four senators have now voted to dismiss the articles of impeachment. The president will not be removed from office. For the good of the country, and in keeping with the Constitution, it is now time to end this trial. It is time to move on. Each senator who voted to dismiss can speak for himself or herself, but we are here not to protect the president of the United States; we were here to protect the Constitution, and we have done so faithfully and fully. My belief is that the House has not shown that the president has committed crimes alleged in the articles. My belief is that that these articles never contained impeachable offenses. The impeachment process has been abused by a partisan effort and we should bring it now to a close.

KWAME HOLMAN: However, House Manager Ed Bryant said he was pleased by the senate’s action today. Bryant is expected to be the manager who will depose Monica Lewinsky.

REP. ED BRYANT, Impeachment Manager: We don’t have the final plan yet from the senate, obviously they’re talking about that right now. But I think the various proposals we’ve heard floated all call for us to complete the three depositions by the end of the weekend. So our work is cut out for us, and certainly that’s something I would like to see done, set time limits for us to finish the work, as well as the White House, in the event that they should be allowed to call witnesses, and if they should choose to call witnesses, that the same type restrictions be placed on them so that we can have an assurance this process will move forward, and people would not use dilatory tactics, delaying tactics, to slow this process down.

KWAME HOLMAN: But at the White House this afternoon, Spokesman Joe Lockhart said any moves made by the president’s defense team will be to ensure the process is fair.

JOE LOCKHART, White House Spokesman: I think I have made the point abundantly clear: The White House lawyers will not be ready to adequately serve their part in this process, as a defense, before they have had a chance to have the field leveled, before they have a chance to see the documents that the House managers have had for the last five months.

REPORTER: Even yesterday on the floor of the senate, they said the White House is bluffing, you want this over with, you’d welcome a chance to have a schedule.

JOE LOCKHART: We’ve been very — I think we’ve been very straightforward all the way through this process about what we believe needs to be done. We do want this over with, but we want it done in a way that’s fair.

KWAME HOLMAN: Just before 5 P.M., During a brief reconvening of the trial, Majority Leader Lott took the floor to announce leaders of both parties were close to an agreement.

SEN. TRENT LOTT: We have been narrowing the questions that are involved, and we’re working on what I hope will be the final draft now. But there – it’s not going to be possible to complete that this afternoon; we hope to be able to do it when we reconvene at 1 P.M. on Thursday.

KWAME HOLMAN: A few minutes later, Lott told reporters he hopes the final plan will allow the impeachment trial to end by mid-February.