KWAME HOLMAN: After three and a half hours of debate, the committee voted overwhelmingly to scale down impeachment Article IV. Nine Democrats joined all the Republicans in voting yes, but three Democrats chose to vote "present." The vote on actual passage of Article IV, however, returned to the party lines that moved the first three impeachment articles. All 21 Republicans voted in favor -- all 16 Democrats against.
KWAME HOLMAN: After the votes, Mr. Clinton's attorney spoke to reporters at the White House and predicted Republicans will pay a political price for the impeachment votes. He said nothing about the process had been fair or bipartisan. Inside the committee room the debate grew sharper as Democrats presented their alternative to impeachment, a resolution of censure of the president. It reads, in part, "William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States, by his own conduct has brought upon himself and fully deserves the censure and condemnation of the American people and the Congress."
REP. HENRY HYDE: The committee will now proceed to consider a joint resolution censuring President Clinton.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Democrats' resolution was written by Rick Boucher of Virginia.
REP. RICK BOUCHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to begin this afternoon by expressing my appreciation to you, Chairman Hyde, for making an order for consideration by the Judiciary Committee this resolution of censure. It is the American public's preferred outcome for the committee's investigation. And any process in this committee or on the floor that makes a censure alternative available to the members will be rejected by the public as unbalanced, partisan, and unfair. The Farmers of the Constitution intended that the impeachment power be used only when the nation is seriously threatened. In the words of our predecessors on this committee, in their 1974 Watergate inquiry report, it is only to be used for the removal from office of a chief executive whose conduct is seriously incompatible with either the constitutional form and principles of our government or the proper performance of the constitutional duties of the presidential office. The facts that are now before this committee, which arise from a personal relationship and the effort to conceal it, simply do not rise to that high constitutional standard. While the president's conduct was reprehensible, it did not threaten the nation; it did not undermine the constitutional forum and principles of our government. It did not disable the proper performance of the constitutional duties of the presidential office. It does not rise to the standard of impeachment set by this committee on a bipartisan basis in 1974. But the acts were reprehensible. The president made false statements about his relationship with a subordinate. He wrongly took steps to delay the discovery of the truth. He has diminished his personal dignity and that of the office of the presidency. He has brought the presidency into disrepute and impaired the image of the president as a role model for younger Americans. I have a deep disdain for the president's actions. He deserves the admonishment and the censure and the rebuke of the Congress and in adopting this resolution of censure, we will give voice to the widely held public view that the president should not be removed from office but that he should be admonished by the Congress for his conduct. We can avoid this damage to the nation. We can bring closure to the process this month. And we can begin the process of healing this nation by adopting this resolution of censure here and having it adopted on the floor of the House. It is my hope that together we can reach this sensible conclusion, which more than any other approach will simultaneously acknowledge our long constitutional history and place this nation, the Congress, and the presidency on a path toward the restoration of dignity.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Republicans argued censure is not enough.
REP. HENRY HYDE: The committee has adopted articles of impeachment against President William Jefferson Clinton. And I believe it's tremendously important to let the House work its will on the work product of this committee pursuant to the House's command. To do anything else would be to look the other way, instead of confronting our collective responsibility under the Constitution. Out of a feeling of fairness and deference to ranking member Conyers and to my other Democratic friends I've agreed to allow the committee consideration of a joint resolution of censure. But in no way should my disposition here today in committee be confused with my conviction that a so-called presidential committee is ultravires of the Constitution. Now, it is very tempting - almost irresistibly tempting - to demand of my friends specificity. Yesterday, you put me through 22 hoops - some of which I had a lot of trouble climbing through - because of a dearth of specificity. As I look at this work product, I can only ask: Where is the specificity? You say he made false statements. What false statements? When? Where? Under what circumstances? Was he under oath? Where is the word "lie" in here? I don't see "lie." I see that William Jefferson Clinton wrongly took steps to delay discovery of the truth. How did he do that? Specificity, Mr. Nadler --specificity. Anyway - I won't avail myself of that great temptation. But I will ask: What effect -
CONGRESSMAN: Glad you won't, Mr. Chairman.
REP. HENRY HYDE: Yes. I will say, what effect? Now, Mr. Frank yesterday made a very good statement. He talked about censure is not nothing; it is substantial. I think it depends on the person who is censured. I think it means something to a person of some sensitivity. I think it has historical meaning. I don't say it's a nullity or nothing at all, but it also - the only time that I am aware of it having any efficacy was against Andrew Jackson. And it is now a bare footnote in Mr. Schlesinger's book, "The Age of Jackson," and was revoked the next year by another Congress. But it's similar to yelling at a teenager. I mean, it purges you of some emotional feelings, but I don't know what it really accomplishes. And I'm concerned that - once established - we would see a stream of censures against succeeding presidents for policy decisions and what have you. The Constitution doesn't require us to fill in the blanks. There are no blanks. And what do we censure him for? As I read this, it is getting into sexual misconduct. And that's none of Congress's business. I insist it is none of Congress's business. Those are private and ought to be left alone. And the resolution does not adequately address the serious questions of perjury and lying under oath, which are the gravamen to this member of the impeachment. So I reserve the - I will yield to Mr. Sensenbrenner, since I have some time left.
REP. F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Let me echo the comments that the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Hyde, has made expressing his grave reservations about the constitutionality and efficacy of the censure resolution that has been proposed in good faith by the gentleman from Virginia and others. Let me say that it is of questionable constitutionality. It is bad precedent, and it doesn't do what it proposes to do. If we set the precedent of censuring the president over allegations of misconduct, then we can do it for a president vetoing a budget bill of a Congress of another party, a president vetoing a bill that bans partial birth abortions, or anything else that is emotional. We should stay away from setting this precedent as tempting as it may be. Now, finally, the censure resolution that has been offered by the gentleman from Virginia does not address the essential misconduct that has been alleged against the President of the United States. I listen quite eagerly to everything my friend from Massachusetts says. And yesterday during the debate, Mr. Frank said that the censure resolution relates the statements the president made at the press conference and not t the grand jury. And that means if this resolution is adopted the way it has been submitted, shaking your finger at the camera and telling the American public a lie is worthy of condemnation and censure by the Congress, but violating one's oath to the grand jury or in other types of judicial proceedings is not. Mr. Chairman, that's ridiculous. And I think it comes close to insulting the intelligence of the American public. What we're talking about here are serious legal violations by President Clinton. And your censure resolution does not address those in the slightest. I think it misses the point; it misses the mark; and it tells the American public that it's more serious to lie on television than to lie after you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And I hope it's overwhelmingly rejected, and yield back the balance of my time.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats also used their time in the hearing today to make a plea to the House Republican leadership to permit a vote on censure on the House floor next week.
REP. THOMAS BARRETT: What we are trying to do here today is we're trying to offer an olive branch - plain and simple. We think that after Republicans and Democrats alike read this resolution, they will agree that this is a fair resolution to this matter. And we're doing this because even those of us who are opposed to impeaching the president recognize that we cannot tell our children that it's okay not to tell the truth. If you would have asked me six years ago, five years ago, one year ago, whether I would be a co-author of a measure censuring my president, the president of my party, I'd say not a chance. I hear the argument that if we adopt this censure, we're going to have a stream of censures. But I think back and I think geez, we just did this 164 years ago. I don't worry about that. If we do a censure every - once every 164 years, I don't think that that's a problem. I think that, more than anything, that recognizes the gravity of what we're trying to do. And make no mistake about it - whether we impeach the president or whether we censure the president, it will be the second time in this nation's history that we do either.
REP. HENRY HYDE: The chair recognizes Ms. Jackson-Lee for five minutes.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE: I join my colleagues who have co-authored this and would not have imagined that I in 1998 would be part of censuring and drafting a resolution such as this to condemn a sitting President of the United States of America. The president's conduct was wrong. Impeachment, however, is final and non-appealable. And frankly, it, as well, deals with issues of great and dangerous offense against the Constitution. It deals with undermining the state, but impeachment is also divisive. It crosses the political divide. It raises the anguish and anger of America. And I take issue with my colleagues who might note that it is unconstitutional; it cannot be done. It is not a bill of attainder as under Article I, Section 9. It does not restrict the liberty and property of the president. But does it in any way diminish its impact? I would say not. And so I'd like to just for a moment take up the challenge that a late and respected member of this committee would always say - and I'm reminded of his words - Mr. Bono - Stop the legalese. And I want to do that right now, for this is an anguished time for all of us, and it is at this very moment, in this very esteemed room that I'd like to look at the back of the room and see the doors flung open and throngs of Americans pour into this room, coming from all walks of life, maybe Shaker Heights in Ohio, or Harlem in New York, maybe Fifth Ward in the 18th congressional district of Texas, maybe some parts in Arizona where native Americans dwell, and I'd like for us to listen to them, for they have now challenged us to break this impasse. They have now risen to the point of saying, censure this president, rebuke him for his wrong, and horrible and intimidating conduct. He has hurt his wife, his daughter, his family of Americans. Listen to us. Let us be heard. Censure is right for this nation. It causes us to rise above the political divide, and it is not unconstitutional. There is no prohibition in the Constitution. And it is right for us to send this motion to the floor of the House.
REP. HENRY HYDE: The gentle lady from California, Ms. Lofgren.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. What I hear from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle is that in your judgment, this resolution doesn't go far enough; it is insufficient. You have a right to that opinion. I don't agree with you, but I recognize you have the right to believe that the resolution is insufficiently strong, insufficiently tough, insufficiently condemnatory. What I think you do not have the right to do is to deny our colleagues on the House the opportunity to disagree with you. I think that this issue of whether the president should be impeached or whether there should be a resolution of censure is one that we should not hold just to ourselves in the Judiciary Committee. This is a question that needs to be shared with every member, all 435 members of the House of Representatives. I would ask that you consider doing this. And I've asked privately several of you to consider this. If you cannot approve this resolution, please do this: Vote "present" on this resolution. Let those of us who believe this resolution is the correct thing to do, let us vote for it and move it to the floor.
KWAME HOLMAN: Earlier today in a letter to House Speaker-Elect Bob Livingston House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt made a plea to allow such a vote. He wrote: "I am requesting that the Republican leadership construct a rule that provides for the alternative of censure to be voted on with ample debate time. Such an allowance provides voice not only to the members but to the American people, who have overwhelmingly said they oppose impeachment and prefer the alternative force of censure of the president. But committee Republicans have shown little sympathy for such arguments. Several say censuring the president would be unconstitutional.
REP. CHARLES CANADY: We have a responsibility to follow the Constitution. Now, we have heard many suggestions about what will happen if this president is impeached. We have heard horror story after horror story. But do we have such fear of following the path marked out for us by the Constitution that we would take it upon ourselves to go down a different path, a path of our own choosing? Will we let our faith in the Constitution be put aside and overwhelmed by the fears that have been feverishly propagated by the president's defenders? Now, there is no question that this is a momentous issue. There is no question that impeaching a President of the United States is a momentous act. But this is not a legislative coup de tat. This is a constitutional process. Now, will the impeachment of the president cause difficulties, discomfort, and inconveniences? Most certainly. No one would deny that. This is a sad chapter in our history. But I reject the notion that the Senate will be tied up for month after month of this matter. Such dire predictions are a scare tactic, a tactic to scare us into turning away from our constitutional duty. There's a great deal of evidence before us, but in its essentials this is a rather simple case. It can be resolved by the Senate expeditiously. We should reject the scare tactics; we should reject the effort to have us turn away from constitutional duty. We should vote down this motion and move forward with doing our duty in the House of Representatives.
REP. HENRY HYDE: The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Smith.
REP. LAMAR SMITH: I'd like to compliment the gentleman from Virginia and his colleagues for drafting what I think is a serious and strong resolution. This is tough language. It says that the president failed in his obligation to set an example of high moral standards; that he violated the trust of the American people; that he lessened their esteem for the office of the president; that he dishonored the office, that he made false statements; that he wrongly took steps to delay discovery of the truth, and remains subject to civil and criminal penalties; that he deserves the censure and condemnation of the American people and the Congress; and that his signature acknowledges this censure and condemnation. But, Mr. Chairman, the same reasons listed in this censure, in my judgment, justify an impeachment. There are three other reasons to, I think, oppose this censure. The first is that we don't know if it's constitutional. The Constitution does not specifically mention censure as a sanction appropriate to be applied to the president, but it doesn't prohibit it specifically either. The fact of the matter is we don't know and, therefore, it might be unconstitutional and subsequently overturned. The second reason is that it might be repealed by future Congresses. This is what happened with the previous censure back in 1834, when President Andrew Jackson was censured. It was, in fact, overturned by the very next Congress. And the third reason to oppose it, I think, is that it is contrary to precedent. When the censure was issued back against President Jackson, it was issued by the Senate, not the House. And that's appropriate, because, as we've heard many times today, the House impeaches. It accuses or it charges. It is the Senate that determines guilt or innocence, and applies the sanctions. So if and when there ever might be a censure, the Senate is the appropriate forum for that. Their only clear constitutional remedy, without any question, is impeachment. And, Mr. Chairman, anything else, in my judgment, would be premature and improper.
REP. HENRY HYDE: The gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Frank.
REP. BARNEY FRANK: I've been reading the Constitution. It's going to make the bestseller list this week, obviously. And I've looked at the enumerated powers. There's nothing in here that says we can pass sense of Congress resolutions. There's nothing in here that says we could have passed the resolution sponsored just this past year by Mr. Solomon, the chairman of the Rules Committee, Mr. Delay, the majority whip, urging the president to do this, being critical of the president for doing that. No one seriously argues that because it isn't explicitly authorized, Congress cannot pass resolutions expressing opinions. So I don't believe that the Constitution argument has any substance whatsoever.
KWAME HOLMAN: Though the outcome never was considered in doubt, committee members, nonetheless, debated the Democrats' censure resolution for about three and a half hours.
REP. BOB GOODLATTE: This is exactly what the president wants. The president - in his behavior before the district court, in his behavior before the grand jury, in his behavior before this Congress, mocks the American people. This president mocks the Congress. And this censure is exactly what he wants. He will take it as vindication of his mocking, and we should not give it to him. Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.
REP. MELVIN WATT: I think I'm going to vote for this, probably much to the chagrin of some people in my congressional district who think we ought not do anything. But there are a bunch of people in my district who think we ought to impeach the president too, so I think my responsibility is to do what I think is right here and there are two things that make me believe this right. Number one is the very, very persuasive argument that Mr. Barrett made yesterday that every single member of this House ought to be allowed to vote their conscience, whatever that is, and number two, I think we have a very strong message to bring this matter to an end from the country's perspective.
REP. STEVE CHABOT: What is this censure really all about? We heard Chairman Hyde -- when we started this debate - refer to censure as yelling at your teen-agers. Well, I've got a teen-age daughter and I can assure you it doesn't do any good, and you might even get back the response that the Democratic counsel, Abbe Lowell, got back from his daughter the other day - "Duh." And, you know, this censure, is it really just a way for people to cover their political back side? I guess we can use that term when we consider how graphic the evidence is that we've had endured during this whole matter.
REP. THOMAS BARRETT: Will the gentleman yield for two seconds.
REP. STEVE CHABOT: Mr. Barrett.
REP. THOMAS BARRETT: You had asked whether this was a vote just for people to cover their back side, and I wanted to take two seconds to say no.
REP. STEVE CHABOT: Okay. I appreciate that, and I'm just saying that some people believe it is. And we all have to make our own decisions on these types of matters. I'd be happy to yield to the gentle lady from Texas.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE: I thank the gentleman, and, likewise, as the co-author of this resolution, I would simply say that it might do more damage to those of who may ultimately vote for it than not. But I think that the deciding factor is one of conscience and the point that I made - one of bringing us together as a nation. And I thank the gentleman for yielding.
REP. BOB BARR: This isn't group therapy. This isn't a feel-good session. This is the Congress of the United States. We have a solemn duty here based on an oath that we took to uphold the Constitution. Let's do it. If people believe that it is, indeed, okay for the President of the United States of America to perjure himself, to lie under oath, to make false and misleading statements, under oath, then let them have the backbone to stand up and say so, to look the people of this country in the eye and say, I think it's okay for a president to do those things. But, let's not succumb to that siren song, that mirage in the desert of a censure.
REP. HENRY HYDE: Without objection -
KWAME HOLMAN: As the hearing drew to a close, there was a rare bipartisan show of support for commission chairman Henry Hyde.
REP. F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that this committee unanimously praise our chairman, Henry Hyde, at the conclusion of this debate for being a very fair, impartial chairman during these very difficult times. (round of applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: The Democrats' censure proposal then failed along another near-party-line vote. That prompted a final plea from ranking Democrat John Conyers.
REP. JOHN CONYERS: Speaker-Elect Livingston has publicly said he would consult with you before making a decision as to whether to schedule this matter for the floor. And, as you know, traditionally, one Democratic alternative is generally made in order, even if it fails in committee, a matter of fundamental comity and fairness we've observed across the years. And so the question is consistent with your sense of procedural fairness: Will you ask Mr. Livingston to make this censure resolution at least in order?
REP. HENRY HYDE: I cannot make that promise, but -
KWAME HOLMAN: This Judiciary Committee then adjourned for the last time at 6:22 p.m. Eastern Time.
REP. HENRY HYDE: The committee of the Judiciary for the 105th Congress slips into history, and I want to congratulate every member for contributing to a challenging, productive, two-year session. And see you in the next Congress.
KWAME HOLMAN: Just after the hearing ended, Chairman Hyde issued a statement opposing a censure vote on the House floor. At the same time, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Speaker-Elect Bob Livingston released concurring statements saying they agreed with Hyde that no censure vote should be allowed when the full House meets next Thursday to consider the four articles of impeachment. Join Jim Lehrer for gavel-to-gavel coverage of that historic debate on many PBS stations and for reports and analysis on the NewsHour. I'll be back Thursday night with another one-hour summary of the House debate. That concludes our special coverage of the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment hearings. More information on the impeachment issue can be found on the NewsHour Online. I'm Kwame Holman. Thank you for joining us and good night.