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MARGARET WARNER: And now reaction from the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, Representative Chris Cox of California is chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. Welcome, Congressman. You heard Greg Craig’s assessment of today’s action and the White House concerns about the fairness of this process. What’s your reaction to that?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX: Well, first I heard Mr. Craig several times characterize the resolution adopted by a significant bipartisan majority on the floor today as a Republican resolution. That assuredly it was not. The House of Representatives in considering whether to open an inquiry on such a grave matter as impeachment of the president was careful to follow precedent. And indeed the resolution that we adopted was modeled virtually word for word on that drafted by the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974, Peter Rodino. That is true with respect both to the lack of a time limit and the open-endedness of the inquiry — not because it is supposed to roam but rather because, as Chairman Rodino said at the time, in order to make sure the committee’s deliberations are full, fair, and impartial, and in order that a judgment can be rendered in that fashion, all of the evidence must be presented.
And as Chairman Rodino said at the time, he wanted to wrap it up as quickly as possible, but it would probably induce gaming, as it were, from the Nixon White House. They would try and run out the clock if he imposed a time limit. So today, Henry Hyde gave assurances that he wishes to finish this up as quickly as possible. Lastly, with respect to the bipartisan nature of this, I heard Mr. Craig say that 99 percent of the Democrats voted against it. That, of course, is not true. He under-stated the Democratic support by a factor of 15. There were 31 Democrats who, in fact , voted in support of this. And when one looks at who those Democrats were and when one listens to what they said on the floor, I think it’s very clear that this is, indeed, a fair process.
MARGARET WARNER: I’m not just putting or pointing out that partisanship might have only been on one side. You only had one Democrat – one Republican voting for the Democrats proposal, and you had only 31 Democrats voting for the Republican proposal. And what I’m asking here is why shouldn’t the American public conclude that partisan politics was driving what happened on the floor today?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX: Well, as I said, because the important thing to do is to follow the precedence of the House. Impeachment is, of course, a constitutional procedure. It is also one that is very much a regular procedure within the committee process in the House. We have 200 years of experience. What was proposed as an alternative to the resolution adopted by the bipartisan majority was something that has never occurred before in American history. The constraints that were imposed, for example, limiting it to evidence already known, would, of course, be inconsistent and unprecedented with what we know Chairman Rodino has done before, and we know occurred as early as the last century.
MARGARET WARNER: The House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said today that he wished there could have been just one resolution, and that he felt the problem was that you Republicans and the Democrats in the House don’t trust each other. Do you think that’s true?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX: Well, I think it’s important to compare the difference in the House rules today and the House rules in 1974. When the Republicans were in the minority in 1974, the time allotted for debate on this identical resolution was only 1/2 hour on each side. Today two hours were allotted for debate And in fact, that time was allowed to run much over. And yet we heard complaints that it was partisan and unfair when, indeed, there was solid precedent for bringing up this procedural resolution exactly as it was brought up.
I also think it’s important that we keep in mind that when we are adopting a resolution of such consequence, that we do it after consulting with Democrats and Republicans on both sides and working out differences as best we can. That did not take place with respect to the Democratic alternative. And in 1974, the Republicans were not allowed their own alternatives whatever. So in 1974, Republicans, of course, were forced to vote for the only alternative on the floor. We saw a little bit more division today because there were two flavors, chocolate and vanilla, but altogether both the Democratic and Republican procedural motions were to move forward, looking into whether these referrals by the independent counsel amount to impeachable offenses.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let’s turn to where this process goes from here. What is your sense now of what the Judiciary Committee is going to do? Do you, for instance, think – does the leadership think that it has to resolve differences in the testimony between major players in this drama in the Ken Starr Report?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX: I think that factual examination is very much what this is going to be about. As you just had an opportunity to ask Mr. Craig, we are very interested in Congress and in obtaining testimony from people who have not been made available to the grand jury. Bruce Lindsey, obviously, has been a witness sought by the independent counsel and the White House has chosen to litigate all the way to the Supreme Court, whether or not he can give testimony. The president, himself, as we all saw when we all saw when we watched the video, refused to answer questions before the grand jury. And so we are hopeful that we can, in fact, through regular means obtain answers to the questions, and look at the rest of the evidence.
There’s a great deal of evidence that I certainly haven’t seen since I’m not a member of the Judiciary Committee that many of the members will want to look at much more carefully. There may also be, as the independent counsel referred to in his letter to the Congress yesterday, additional charges of potential impeachable offenses.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think it would be a good idea for the president to testify?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX: I’m not certain whether having declined the opportunity to testify before the grand jury, which any United States citizen, would have to do under pain of going to jail if we refuse to testify, that the president complaining about the fairness of the forum will find it anymore hospitable in the House of Representatives and in a court of law.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you see any alternatives at this point – the same question I asked Mr. Craig — to this process at least playing out in the House through the committee, committee vote, and full vote on the floor?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX: Honestly, the notion that Congress can fashion some sort of punishment for the president, which I’ve heard in common parlance a great deal – is very much at odds with the bill of attainder clause in the Constitution – bills of attainder – that is legislative acts to punish people were expressly made unconstitutional. We don’t have it within our power under Article I of the Constitution or any other part of the Constitution to levy fines or penalties for conduct that we deem inappropriate, whether it’s conduct of an ordinary citizen or conduct by the President of the United States. As a result, I think the regular way, the appropriate constitutional way, is the way that the House with a bipartisan majority voted to do today.
MARGARET WARNER: And finally, Congressman, as you heard, Congressman Barney Frank and also Congressman Bonior, Democrat, said they thought the Republican leadership wants to have this extended into next year, wants to have it drag on into next year, have the president at a disadvantage in the new Congress. Your reaction?
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX: Well, I think that is factually tendentious. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee and also a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Sensenbrenner, made the point that this resolution authorizing impeachment inquiry, modeled on precedent as it is, is valid and lasts only until the expiration of the 105th Congress on January 2nd, since the Democratic resolution said that this should expire, I believe it was December 31, the whole debate to that extent was about three days.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you very much, Congressman.
REP. CHRISTOPHER COX: Certainly.