Congressional Reaction Split Along Party Lines
Democrats applaud decision; GOP says Clinton's troubles not over
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 1) -- Congressional Democrats applauded the dismissal Wednesday of Paula Jones' sexual harassment case, calling it an end to a "witch hunt." But Republicans say President Bill Clinton's troubles are far from over despite Judge Susan Webber Wright's decision.
"I still think President Clinton may have some real problems because he testified under oath. There is a real question of perjury and obstruction of justice," said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Don Nickles (R-Okla.).
Democrats said the federal judge's dismissal of the case vindicates Clinton, and they called on independent counsel Ken Starr to end his investigation of the president.
Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) said he hopes Starr will now "conclude his work, write his report, submit the findings to the Congress so we can reach our judgment along with the American people."
"It was Kenneth Starr's choice to build his case upon the foundation of the Paula Jones case. That foundation no longer exists," he said.
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said, "Judge Wright's dismissal of the suit against President Clinton should now be the final word on what has become an unprecedented partisan witch hunt of one of the most popular and successful presidents of the 20th century."
Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) also applauded the dismissal of the Jones case. "We have a system of checks and balances and the law has worked. I am very pleased that we will now have the chance to get back the people's business," she said.
Starr said he will press forward with his criminal investigation. And Republicans say the dismissal of the Jones case is a short-term political victory for a president who still faces tough legal questions.
"We lose sight of the fact that this is a lawsuit under specific statutes, and that certain activities have to constitute a violation under those statutes," said Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), who headed last year's Senate investigation of alleged campaign finance violations in Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign.
Although it was partially sparked by the Jones case, Starr's investigation "gets to the question of obstruction of justice and perjury and suborning perjury," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).
"If he committed perjury, even about sexual allegations, I mean that is an important matter," Lott said.
The Jones lawsuit sparked the White House sex scandal after her lawyers turned up allegations that Clinton had an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and urged her to lie under oath in the civil suit.
Clinton denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky or asking her to lie. Starr has asked a grand jury to determine if the Lewinsky matter involved perjury or obstruction of justice -- criminal charges that could fuel a congressional drive for impeachment.
"(The ruling is) certainly not going to have any effect on the inquiry of impeachment," said Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who introduced a motion to impeach Clinton last year.
But Democrats said the decision should force Starr to shut down his lengthy investigation.
"If the Congress has any sense now, it will put an end to this and move on with the business that the American people care about," Conyers said.
Democrats said Starr will be hard pressed to pursue Clinton on a perjury charge taken from a dismissed legal case.
"This is the beginning of the end," said Moseley-Braun.
Reuters contributed to this report.