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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

House impeachment vote remains close

Some key members of Congress are shifting against Clinton

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 15) -- As the House of Representatives heads toward Thursday's debate on impeachment, the outcome remains too close to call. But public pressure is building on remaining undecided members, and President Bill Clinton needs the support of an estimated eight to 10 Republicans to avoid a Senate trial.

The latest member to announce what he intends to do is Rep. Tom Campbell, a California Republican, who said Tuesday he intends to vote to impeach Clinton because he believes the president lied to a federal grand jury in the Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton has admitted a relationship with Lewinsky, but denied he committed perjury or obstruction trying to conceal it.

"The matter is serious, it is grave, but it is not complicated," said Campbell.

Rep. Tom Campbell  

Campbell said he could give Clinton the benefit of the doubt if he had been surprised by Paula Jones' attorneys in that case, but felt that Clinton was prepared to face Independent Counsel Ken Starr's grand jury with his attorneys by his side and chose to lie to them.

Another GOP moderate, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, said Tuesday he also would vote to impeach the president.

"After a careful review of the facts, I believe there is enough evidence to send this matter on to the Senate for a formal trial and their final consideration. I will vote for impeachment," Upton said.

The latest tally shows about 30 House members who have not declared what they intend to do when the House votes Thursday or, if the debate goes longer than expected, Friday.

In addition to Campbell and Upton, Rep. Anne Northup (R-Kentucky) held a news conference Tuesday to announce she too would vote to remove Clinton.

Another moderate, Rep. Jack Quinn of New York, said he would vote for two impeachment articles charging Clinton with perjury. Rep. John McHugh (R-New York), scheduled a news conference in which he, too, was expected to announce he would vote to remove Clinton.

Rep. Anne Northup  

If the House votes to approve any of the four proposed articles of impeachment against Clinton, the impeachment case will move to the Senate for trial.

For lawmakers who remain undecided, the pressure is on -- both internal pressure they place on themselves and from constituents who are telephoning and e-mailing them.

"This will be one of the toughest weeks I've had in my life and in my political life, absolutely," said Rep. Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican. "This is a very, very difficult week."

In a setback for the White House, anti-impeachment Republican Chris Shays, once firmly opposed to impeachment, indicated he is less sure now. The White House says the president will meet with Shays on Wednesday.

"I want to know if he understands that he broke the law," Shays said. "I want to know if he's willing to acknowledge to the American people that he broke the law, and I want to know that he acknowledges that he, like all Americans, has to be held accountable to the laws."

Rep. Christopher Shays  

But the news for Clinton wasn't all bad. Virgil Goode, Jr., a conservative Democrat from Virginia who had suggested he would vote for impeachment, now says he is undecided. Democrats think Goode can be convinced to vote against all four articles of impeachment.

Democrats are now hopeful that no more than three or four Democrats will vote for impeachment.

Meanwhile, People for the American Way, a liberal interest group, is targeting some remaining undecided members with radio ads.

"You know, I can't believe this," a woman in the radio ad says. "They're going to vote to impeach the president this week. A man responds, "Come on! I mean, how many times do we have to tell Congress to move on?"

Some undecided lawmakers told CNN they will not announce their decision until they actually vote. That means it may be impossible to say whether the president will be impeached until the votes are counted.

At California Republican Brian Bilbray's office in San Diego, thousands of people are calling trying to influence his decision. Some of his constituents want him to make up his mind now.

But Bilbray has questions of his own for those who would criticize him.

"Have they read the president's testimony?" Bilbray asked. "Have they scrutinized it personally or did they just hear about it through hearsay?

Bilbray says he wants to see all of the evidence before making a decision, a decision he says will be the third most important he has ever made.

"The first (was) being married," Bilbray said. "Probably the second was one that I didn't like, and that was having to decide to turn off life- support systems on my child. This one would fall third in my personal life."

Bilbray says he will not vote along party lines. He says he wants to know the facts and then decide.

"In the 22 years of being an elected official, this will probably be what my children and grandchildren remember me by," he said.

Still another California Republican, Rep. Frank Riggs, told CNN's "Early Edition" he is concerned that a majority of Americans appear to believe Clinton lied under oath, but do not want him kicked out of office.

"I'm very clear that my paramount responsibility under the circumstances is to first protect and defend the constitution, but also to uphold the rule of law," Riggs said. "But I'm wrestling not just with my conscience, but this apparent contradiction or paradox between the fact that a substantial majority of the American people apparently believes that the president lied under oath, but a similar majority do not want him impeached and removed from office."

CNN's Bob Franken, Jonathan Karl and Greg LaMotte contributed to this report.

Investigating the President


Tuesday, December 15, 1998

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