House Leaders Will Discuss Starr Report
Clinton says he's 'sorry' for Lewinsky affair
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sept. 4) -- Even though President Bill Clinton said Friday he was "very sorry" for his conduct in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that may not be enough to save the embattled president from a growing wave of bipartisan criticism in Congress.
On the heels of Thursday's scathing criticism from Senate Democrats comes word that House Republican and Democratic leaders will meet next week to ensure than any possible impeachment proceedings will be conducted in bipartisan fashion. And the chairman of the House Rules Committee says he is drafting a resolution outlining House impeachment procedures.
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|House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt|
House Speaker Newt Gingrich also has assured House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt that Democrats will be included in planning the process for receiving Independent Counsel Ken Starr's report on Clinton, CNN has learned. The report is expected later this month.
Gephardt called Gingrich and the two leaders spoke for 10 minutes on
Friday afternoon. A House Democratic aide said Gephardt was satisfied with Gingrich's response to his concerns, and that Gephardt called the exchange "a productive phone call."
Gephardt aide Eric Smith said the Speaker promised Gephardt the two leaders would meet next Wednesday with Rep. Dick Armey (R-Texas), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and Rep. John Conyers, (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
|House Speaker Newt Gingrich|
"If the process of possible impeachment must begin, it is one of the most serious responsibilities Congress will undertake and it must be conducted in a bipartisan manner," Gephardt said from St. Louis.
A senior Republican leadership aide said Gingrich called the Wednesday
meeting so that House leaders can discuss areas of concern that Gephardt
The aide said Gingrich hopes the process will remain bipartisan and
members won't prejudge the process before it is completed. Gingrich also expressed tremendous confidence in Hyde's ability to shepherd the process, the aide said.
One of the causes of Gephardt's concern, sources say, is that Republican
leaders have not signed off on the hiring of Abbe Lowell as the lead Democratic counsel for the Judiciary Committee. Lowell has been working without a contract since agreeing to take the job.
Solomon, Hyde drafting impeachment process
In a related development, House Rules Committee Chairman Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.) says he is working closely with Hyde to draft a resolution outlining House impeachment procedures.
The proposed resolution, which must be approved by the entire House, suggests procedures that were followed before the Office of Independent Counsel was created. The procedure would:
- Give the House Judiciary Committee sole jurisdiction for conducting a proper review of Starr's anticipated report on impeachable offenses.
- Make sure all 435 House members are able to cast informed votes by giving them any accompanying "executive summary" that comes with the full Starr report.
- Recommend, if the Judiciary Committee determines that sufficient grounds exist to recommend an impeachment inquiry, that the House vote to give the Judiciary Committee authority to proceed with such an inquiry.
- Require that the Judiciary Committee report a resolution with the articles of impeachment to the House. The House, by a simple majority vote, must approve the articles of impeachment and convey them to the Senate.
- Recommend that the Judiciary Committee make the entire report available to all members before they are asked to vote to have the Senate conduct an impeachment trial.
The Senate, under its constitutional mandate, conducts a trial on whether the president is fit to serve or should be removed from office, with the Chief Justice of the United States presiding.
If the president is convicted of any "high crimes and misdemeanors" by a two-thirds vote in the Senate, he is removed from office.
Dogged by scandal overseas, Clinton says he's sorry
Earlier Friday, the president answered some of his Capitol Hill critics by using the word "sorry" for the first time in connection with his conduct in the sex scandal.
"I made a big mistake. It is indefensible and I am sorry," Clinton said during a photo opportunity with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.
He said it was not his place to say whether Congress should pass a resolution censuring him for his behavior.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) criticized the president in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, saying Clinton's actions were "immoral" but it was premature for Congress to talk about censure.
|Sen. Joseph Lieberman|
"I can't disagree with anyone else who wants to be critical of what I have already acknowledged is indefensible," Clinton said. "There's nothing that he [Lieberman] or anyone else could say in a personally critical way that I don't imagine I would disagree with since I have already said it myself, to myself, and I'm very sorry about it, but there's nothing else I can say."
Following Lieberman's speech two other prominent senators, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), also rebuked Clinton's handling of the Lewinsky affair.
In a telephone interview Friday with CNN, Lieberman said he appreciated Clinton's latest comments.
"I know how hard it is for the president," Lieberman said in his first public reaction to the president's comments. "It's very difficult for him because it's so personal. I hope it's the beginning of a process of healing for him and for the country."
|Sen. Bob Kerrey|
Asked whether the president's comments in Dublin achieved that "healing"
process, Lieberman replied, "It's a start."
But he repeated that he also wanted to wait for Starr's report to Congress.
Clinton was subdued as he answered the questions in Dublin, clearly not pleased his domestic political crisis was overshadowing the high-profile international trip. At one point, he said he should not be commenting on his domestic political difficulties while out of the country.
Asked later if the president made a conscious decision to use the word "sorry," White House press secretary Mike McCurry said no and that the president believed he had conveyed exactly that sentiment in his previous remarks. In all of his previous statements, Clinton has used the term "regret."
Clinton's chief of staff speaks out
In a rare interview, White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles said Lieberman's criticism of the president was "justifiable."
|Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles|
"It's awfully tough -- it's painful -- when a friend gives you justifiable criticism, and that's what Joe did," the media-shy Bowles said on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields." "The president has beat himself up pretty bad over his actions and he understands why Joe Lieberman felt it necessary to go to the Senate floor yesterday. He said he's sorry and we're going to try to do our best to move forward."
Bowles says that White House staffers have taken the president's admission of an affair with Lewinsky hard. When asked if he was supporting a confrontational strategy in response to Starr, Bowles said no, adding that he hoped "it won't be necessary to begin with."
On Aug. 17, after months of denying, in public and under oath, that he had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern, the president finally admitted to Starr's grand jury that he had been intimate with Lewinsky. Clinton then went on national television to say the relationship was "wrong."
Starr continues to investigate whether Clinton committed perjury or obstruction of justice while trying to keep the affair a secret.
CNN's John King, Ann Curley and Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.