November 14, 1997
The Online Explainers take your question on the investigation.
The NewsHour's coverage of the Congressional Investigation.
The inside stories on the political fight behind the public investigation.
The investigation is big news in Washington, but how's it playing around the country.
A closer look at the issues really under scrutiny by the Congress.
KWAME HOLMAN: On Monday, President Clinton had to acknowledge the defeat of his effort to win fast-track trade authority from Congress . In doing so, he also had to admit he failed in part because 3/4 of the members of his own Democratic Party in the House refused to vote with him.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Was there some politics in it? Of course, there is. But there's politics in every tough vote that has been held in the Congress and any legislative body in my lifetime. I did not question their integrity. I question the judgment.
KWAME HOLMAN: The President's inability to bring along members of his own party highlighted longstanding strains with fellow Democrats. Bill Clinton campaigned in 1992 as a so-called new Democrat, a centrist southern governor who helped found the moderate Democratic Leadership Conference.
BILL CLINTON: We have revolutionized the Democratic Party. We have opened it to Republicans and independents and former Perot supporters. There's a new Democratic Party in this country, and we need your support to get behind it!
KWAME HOLMAN: And the President enjoyed deep party loyalty a year later when, without a single Republican vote, he pulled off squeakers in both Houses of Congress to pass his budget plan.
REP. PAT WILLIAMS, (D) Montana: Well, the President called me several times yesterday morning and afternoon. I called him back at 5 o'clock. We talked for 15 minutes, and at the end of the conversation, he said, "Pat, without your vote, this is not going to pass." And then he said, "My presidency is at stake. I need you, pal." That's heavy lifting.
KWAME HOLMAN: That controversial vote eventually would cost some House Democrats their seats in Congress. Also, late in 1993, the President launched an effort to restructure fundamentally the nation's $70 billion health care system, a plan that again was viewed by many as the essence of traditional Democratic Party liberalism.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: This health care system of ours is badly broken, and it is time to fix it. (applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: And, once again, most Democrats supported the President's health care reform plan, but it was defeated by strong opposition from much of the health care industry and Republicans.
SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL, Majority Leader: (1994) The Republican leaders of the House and Senate said aloud what their colleagues had been saying privately. They will oppose any health care bill this year, modest or not, bipartisan or not. Even though Republicans are a minority in the Congress, in the Senate they're a minority with a veto.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Democrats who remain since the Republican takeover of Congress in 1992 are considered as a group to be more ideologically liberal than before. Despite picking up victories dear to the hearts of liberal Democrats, such as an increase in the minimum wage, President Clinton alienated many in his party when welfare reform became the major legislative issue. The President, now viewed as moving back toward the center, embraced the concept over the strong objections of many Democrats.
REP. GEORGE MILLER, (D) California: This bill puts those children into poverty. That cannot be a proper purpose of the United States Congress, and that cannot be a proper endorsement for the President of the United States.
KWAME HOLMAN: And this year exposed further rifts between the President and congressional Democrats. White House officials and congressional Republicans spent weeks hammering out a balanced budget agreement while most of the Democrats stood on the sidelines. When the budget deal was celebrated at the White House, House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt boycotted the ceremony. And in the days before this week's abortive fast-track effort congressional Democrats watched again as the President worked with Republicans to get the legislation passed. Ultimately, most House Democrats withheld their support, citing the legislation's lack of protections for foreign laborers and the environment. Dooming fast-track negotiating authority for the President for this session of Congress was considered a major victory for organized labor and its close friends in the House Democratic Caucus.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT, House Minority Leader: (Monday) The real question before us now is whether we can connect our values of environmental quality, worker and human rights, to our economic policy.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the wake of the defeat some press stories predicted the President problems with his own party will make him a lame duck or worse next year.