Democrats Will Support Immunity If Burton Goes
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, May 11) -- House Democrats are promising to support immunity for four witnesses in the congressional investigation of 1996 campaign finance abuses, but only if the controversial Rep. Dan Burton steps down as chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman, made the offer Sunday in a letter to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has attacked the Democrats for refusing to support the immunity request.
If Burton is not removed by the GOP leadership, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) said Democrats will demand a vote on ousting the Indiana Republican.
Waxman said Democrats had no problem with voting immunity for the witnesses, but were withholding their support for moving the investigation along because Burton had "disqualified" himself and was no longer able to lead an impartial investigation of the president.
Democrats have ratcheted up the political heat on Burton since he called the president a "scumbag" two weeks ago and said he was out to get Clinton. Burton's release of Whitewater figure Webster Hubbell's taped prison phone conversations further outraged Burton's critics.
Waxman's letter said there were other senior Republicans on the committee who could step in as chairman. But despite deep reservations about Burton's conduct, GOP leaders have publicly backed the chairman.
Gephardt had planned last week to file a motion urging Burton's removal, a parliamentary manuever known as a "privileged resolution," but deferred to Waxman's plan to deal with the issue in the committee.
If Burton remains as a committee chairman, Gephardt said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," "We have no choice but to ask him to step down and to even go to the floor of the House and ask the House to vote on this proposition."
The House Democratic leader also suggested that Gingrich should also recuse himself from future investigations of the president, pointing to the speaker's renewed attacks on Clinton. "It's just totally unfair and wrong to reach conclusions when you are in charge of the investigation," he said.
But Gephardt acknowledged later on CNN's "Late Edition" that as the minority, "realistically we can't do anything."
CNN's John King contributed to this report.