View From the Hill
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REP. DICK ARMEY: The House will be in order.
PHIL PONCE: Fresh from their four-week recess, members of the House of Representatives returned to Capitol Hill today just a few hours ahead of Kenneth Starr’s report. House members hadn’t had the opportunity to speak on the record since before President Clinton’s admission three weeks ago that he indeed had had an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky. And that’s just what Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett wanted to talk about when he came to the floor.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT: Mr. Speaker, integrity and public service is always a paramount concern. I believed that last year when I addressed on this floor misconduct by Speaker Gingrich and I believe it this year when I address misconduct by President Clinton.
PHIL PONCE: Lloyd Doggett’s one-minute speech was the first and last about the President’s troubles today. House rules don’t permit such talk. House rules don’t permit such talk.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT: Members are reminded not to make personal references to the President.
PHIL PONCE: However those same rules don’t apply to the Senate. And today Robert Byrd of West Virginia joined the recent parade of Democrats who’ve come to the Senate floor critical of the President.
SEN. ROBERT BYRD: There’s no question but that the president himself has sown the wind and he is reaping the whirlwind. His televised speech on august 17 heaped hot coals upon himself — coals causing wounds that continue to inflame and burn ever more deeply. Coming as the speech did, so soon after the president’s appearance before the grand jury, his words were ill-timed, ill-formed, and ill-advised. Perhaps if he had only delayed his televised speech for twenty-four hours, he may have, upon reflection, avoided some self-inflicted wounds that has since festered and continue to fester.
PHIL PONCE: President Clinton was out of the country last week when prominent Democrats began to speak on the records against him. And so this morning, a few hours before the House officially returned, President Clinton asked a dozen prominent Democrats from that chamber to meet with him first privately at the White House. Afterwards, Democratic whip David Bonior of Michigan spoke on their behalf.
REP. DAVID BONIOR: We met with the President this morning, and what we saw was a father, a husband, a leader of our country who was contrite and who was very sorry for his actions. It was an emotional meeting. And he wants to carry on the business of the country, but he clearly understands, I think, the deep pain that he has caused his family, his colleagues, the people he works with, members of Congress and the country. And we discussed that piece of our meeting in great detail this morning, with each member responding to the president, and the president listening thoughtfully and with an understanding of what has happened. We then did discuss some issues, but I want to emphasize that the meeting primarily dealt with the concerns, of the pain that he has caused.
PHIL PONCE: In anticipation of the Starr report House Speaker Newt Gingrich held his own morning meeting to discuss how Congress would proceed. In attendance was Illinois Republican Henry Hyde, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would have jurisdiction over any impeachment proceedings; Michigan Democrat John Conyers, the committee’s ranking Democrat; Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH: I believe that – personally I believe that whatever that document is, inevitably and legitimately the American people should have access to it. Certainly all of our members will want access then. The Senators will want access. You all are so effective that it’s inconceivable there could be 535 people with access and you wouldn’t get pieces of it. So we think it is frankly more legitimate and more in the spirit of what we tried to do in making the Congress available to people through the – system for everyone to have access.
REP. JOHN CONYERS: We’re taking every human effort to control what is the most prevalent disease inside the beltway. That’s the leaks. We think that a lot of people might be unnecessarily hurt by material or information that could be in – somewhere in some part of the reports, the addendums, the supplemental materials. And so we’re torn between keeping this thing under lock and key, or making it available to our colleagues. And I think that we’re working out a way to accommodate the process.
REP. DICK ARMEY: This is a constitutional responsibility. And quite frankly, from my point of view, it’s awesome. I had hoped never to have to bear responsibility of this magnitude. This is a serious business. To me it comes under the category of honor, duty, and I will expect this to be handled in a professional manner, an objective manner, and in a matter that is respectful of the magnitude of the task. I will have an anticipation that there will not be partisan tirades or partisan tricks on either side of the aisle. I would have to say to any member who believes that this is a time for partisan antics, more is the pity for you. You’ve lost the sense of the duty and the honor of this position you have, and that’s the expectation I will hold for all members of Congress in this matter.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT: It’s been said many times that this is a political process now. I would urge us all to remember that it is not just a political process. This is a process that has precedent. It is described in our Constitution. It has certain standards and features that we must follow. It is not a – this is not a matter of having another election or taking polls. This is a matter of doing this faithfully, as it should be done, in an objective and fair manner and letting members in a sensible way be acquainted with the facts that are available and then making a judgment.
REP. HENRY HYDE: Well, there’s a well-known cliché, and this is a lousy job, but somebody has to do it. That applies, unfortunately, to us. No one looks forward to this traumatic journey that we’re about to enter on. We did agree this morning and we’re going to do our level best as much as humanly possible to work in a bipartisan fashion because we all agree any impeachment cannot succeed unless it is done in a bipartisan or non-partisan way. It takes a 2/3 vote in the Senate and that necessarily involves Democrats, as well as Republicans. We can’t change the facts. We can only produce the facts in an orderly fashion and give the members an opportunity to vote.
PHIL PONCE: The next step may come tomorrow when the House Rules Committee is expected to consider a resolution outlining the procedures for reviewing the Starr report. It would then be brought to the floor for approval by the full House of Representatives.