What's next in the impeachment process?
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 12) -- Now that the House Judiciary Committee has approved its four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, the next step is already set. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has advised House members to be ready to consider the articles of impeachment Thursday.
Before the articles reach the House, there will be a busy weekend of preparing majority and minority briefs on each article of impeachment detailing Clinton's alleged perjury, obstruction of justice and abuse of power.
There are not many standing rules for impeachment. The House has only faced it a few dozen times in any form in the nation's history, rarely for a president.
The resolution from the Judiciary Committee will come to the full House floor as a privileged resolution, which automatically allows only one hour of debate.
One way for the time to be extended is through a unanimous consent request on the floor, meaning that no one objects. That request would extend the debate time to whatever length all sides agree to.
What will be requested, sources say, is eight hours Thursday, and the leadership has not ruled out extending the debate to Friday, although that is considered unlikely.
Though the Judiciary Committee is expected to vote down a censure resolution, House leaders could still decide to allow one on the floor. If a censure resolution comes before the House, the Rules Committee would meet to establish the rules of debate for the censure resolution. Those rules would require approval by the full House.
While it appears that House Republican leaders are dead set against debating censure, there is a fair amount of time left and any number of deals could happen.
If the House, by a simple majority, votes to impeach President Clinton, the Senate is called on to try the impeachment. The Senate is required to begin the trial the day after the House notifies its readiness to deliver articles of impeachment.
The 106th Congress convenes January 6, and Republican sources say a trial could start as early as January 11. The House appoints managers who act as prosecutors. The president himself is not compelled to attend; his lawyers or members of Congress may defend him.
Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist would preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate. The Senate, a jury of 100, is required to be mute, as witnesses come before them, although they can submit written questions.
Asked how Clinton's latest apology on Friday would affect his decision about bringing a censure motion to the House floor, Speaker-elect Bob Livingston (R-Louisiana) said Saturday, "Frankly we haven't decided yet ... the Judiciary Committee has not completed its work."
Speaking to reporters at Southeast Louisiana State University where he was to give a commencement address, Livingston was asked if the president's statement would make a difference.
"I'm not sure if it will or not; it is up to each individual member of Congress to weigh," Livingston said. "I've seen some of the reaction of some of my colleagues in Washington especially some of those on the Judiciary Committee. It does not appear to have made a big difference."
Asked whether it made a difference to him, Livingston said, "I anticipate it won't make a great deal of difference. I await the findings of the Judiciary Committee."
Livingston continued, "The committee voted three articles of impeachment yesterday (Friday) and will vote on a fourth sometime today (Saturday) and they will be voting on censure..." He said he would not make any decision about his recommendations before the committee has completed its voting and he had a chance to speak to committee Chairman Henry Hyde.
Said Livingston: "It seems to me that at this time, the Congress has to own up to its responsibilities. Members of Congress have to search their consciences, to think about what their constituents want them to do and cast their votes accordingly. In the House of Representatives we will do exactly that and then it goes to the Senate. I am sure the Senate will do that as well."
Gingrich said Saturday all Americans must take the impeachment hearings in Washington seriously and make up their own minds. "Every American should read the (Independent Counsel Ken Starr's) report and take the future of our country seriously," the outgoing speaker said during his final town hall meeting in his Marietta, Georgia, district before he leaves office.
"Everyone should make up their own minds," Gingrich told the packed house. Gingrich told the crowd, which greeted him with a five-minute standing ovation, he has kept a low profile since his announcement that he would leave Congress so that the country can deal with "important issues."
CNN's Gene Randall, Bob Franken, Jonathan Karl and Charles Bierbauer contributed to this report.
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