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

Transcript: House debates articles of impeachment

December 18, 1998

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Florida.

MCCOLLUM: I yield three minutes to the gentleman from New York, Mr. King.

House impeachment debate

Page 1: Adjournment debated

Page 2: ; LaHood sets rules;

Page 3: Gephardt (D); Hutchinson (R)

Page 4: Bonior (D); Frost (D); Menendez (D); Frank (D)

Page 5: Edwards (D); DeLauro (D); Gekas (R); Bryant (R) Boucher (R)

Page 6: Skelton (D); Lewis (D); Barr (R); Johnson (R) Schumer (D)

Page 7: Cunningham (R); Nadler (D); Graham (R); Barrett (D) Buyer (R)

Page 9: Sensenbrenner (R); Jackson Lee (D); Bliley (R)

Page 10: DeGette (R); Gallegly (R); Wexler (D); Campbell (R); Rothman (D); Petri (R)

Page 11: Waters (D); Bono (R); Fazio (D); Brady (R); Kennelly (D); Hulshof (R)

Page 12: Lofgren (D); Johnson (R); Kennedy (D); Linda Smith (R); Christian-Green (D); Bachus (R); Tony Hall (D)

Page 13: King (R); Owens (D); McCollum (R); Jefferson (D); Bryant (R); Manton (D); McHale (D)

Page 14: Lantos (D); Riggs (R); Meek (D); Myrick (R); Jackson (D); Linder (R); Horn (R)

Page 15: Obey (D); Goodling (R); Slaughter (D); Ros-Lehtinen (R); Kildee (D); Ewing (R); Filner (D); Coble (R)

Page 16: McGovern (D); Talent (R); Stearns (R); Kilpatrick (D); McInnis (R); Markey (D); Fawell (R); Klink (R); Whitfield (R); Hastings (D); Hansen (R)

Page 17: Lowey (D); Waxman (D); Houghton (R); Wynn (D); Kingston (R); Pelosi (D); Wicker (R); Eshoo (D); Deutsch (D); Greenwood (R); Doggett (D); Jerry Lewis (R); Boehner (R)

Page 18: Kind (D); Chabot (R); Woolsey (D); Lazio (R); Sawyer (D); Goss (R); Green (D); Callahan (R); Cannon (R); Evans (D); Kucinich (D); Olver (D); Rogan (R)

Page 19: Wilson (R); Cardin (D>; Clayton (D); Farr (D); Aderholt (R); Weygand (D); Baldacci (D); Sanders (I); Jenkins (R); Stokes (D); Kennedy (D); Davis (D); Carson (D); Diaz-Balart (R); Skaggs (D)

Page 10

KING: I thank the gentleman for yielding. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to the articles of impeachment. My opposition to impeachment has nothing to do at all with Bill Clinton, but everything to do with the office of the presidency. By setting a standard which goes beyond the Constitution and, my Republican colleagues, beyond the historic position of our party, we are however well-intentioned, continuing our spiral toward a government subject to the whims of independent counsels and based on the frenzied politics of the moment, rather than a government of immutable principles and transcendent institutions.

This is not a decision which came easy to me. It's not a position which I particularly enjoy. No one has a higher respect than I do for Henry Hyde. To me, he is the conscience of this House and it causes me great pain to in any way differ with him. But I feel I have no alternative. I strongly believe that for a president to be impeached, a president of the United States to be impeached, for an election to be undone, there must be a direct abuse of presidential power. There must be a president abusing the CIA; abusing citizens to the IRS or the FBI; a crime comparable to treason or bribery.

And I would say to my colleagues that my position, I believe, is rooted in Republican philosophy. I go back to the Watergate hearings of 1974 when President Nixon's most eloquent defender, subsequently appointed to the United States Court of Appeals by President Reagan, Congressman Charles Wiggins, came back and testified before the committee and said if he were a member of Congress today, he would vote against impeachment.

But there's even a larger issue here. Where are we going as a nation? And quite frankly, when I hear members on the other side rise up in such opposition to this impeachment, I say: Where were they during the times of Robert Bork or Clarence Thomas or John Tower? But two wrongs don't make a right. We are a nation consumed by investigations, by special counsels. We are a nation consumed by scandal. We are driving good people from government.

And what we're talking about here in this case, the president's conduct was illegal, it was immoral, it was disgraceful, it's indefensible. But the fact is, I don't believe it rises to the level of treason or bribery. And the principle we're setting is that in the future, all of us -- anyone who assumes the office of the presidency, is subject to civil depositions; is subject to lawsuits; and then to have that deposition examined and scrutinized by an independent counsel.

How many of our former presidents would we have lost if this was the case -- if this rule of law, if this principle had prevailed in prior times; in prior times of crisis?

Also, I would ask my fellow Republicans, throughout the 1980s, we saw the abuses of special counsels -- by Lawrence Walsh and others, as they went against members of the Reagan and Bush Administrations. We saw good people like Elliott (ph) Abrams brought down on the flimsiest of charges involving lying. And all of us knew it was wrong and we railed against it. But today, somehow we're willing to apply a different standard, a different principle. And that's wrong.

This is a sad day for our country. It's a sad year for our nation because of the conduct of the president, but also because I believe that as Republicans we have failed to rise to our obligation. As a matter of conscience, I must vote against impeachment and I rue this day.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


SPEAKER: The gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I recognize now the gentleman from New York, Major Owens, an outstanding member of our -- of the committee and I would yield to him three minutes.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from New York is recognized for three minutes.

OWENS: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

SPEAKER: Without objection.

OWENS: Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to pardon my ignorance, but I am not a lawyer and I have not been impressed with the legal gymnastics of the Judiciary Committee hearings. Like the majority of the American people, I watched and listened, and in the end I concluded that in any court of common sense, this is a case that would have been immediately dismissed. No man in America is above the law. The converse should also be true. No citizen, even a feared partisan enemy, should not -- should be denied the benefits of the law, of due process and of equal justice.

Our defendant is an outstanding citizen who has done great service for his people, for his government. On the basis of the charges before us, what prosecutor anywhere in America would press forward with this case and a demand for such a harsh punishment?

Examining the extenuating circumstances related to the outstanding performance and the exemplary accomplishments of this defendant, what ordinary judge in any court in any county in America would allow the trial to go forward?

This defendant, this president has been denied his basic rights. He is not a beneficiary of the rule of law. This defendant is a victim of organized partisan persecution. It is not fair. It is not just. The majority of the American people are angry for good reasons. The voice of Shakespeare's "King Lear" is ringing in our ears: "Fool me not to bear tamely; touch me with noble anger."

Consider the record of the defendant. This is the education president who has gone beyond lofty rhetoric and done more for education than any president since Lyndon Johnson. In Haiti, they have cheered him as the liberator. In the Middle East and Northern Ireland, they have hailed him as a great peacemaker. In Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Sarajevo, they give him thanks as an angel of mercy who stopped the mass slaughter of innocent men, women and children. On Wall Street, this president is celebrated as a master of macroeconomic policymaking.

In all endeavors where it has mattered most, this defendant has done his duty well. Why is this defendant before us? Why is the political death penalty being demanded? Our posterity will spit upon us for allowing this madness to reach this level. It is not too late for all members to truly vote their conscience.

Good men and good women can often be hypnotized momentarily by the collective fervor of the crowd. Today in this proceeding, extreme punishment is the only item that is allowed on the agenda. The majority is demanding excommunication. The loud cry is for banishment. This is a political crucifixion. Responsible decisionmakers have temporarily lost their reason.

I call upon every member to break the spell; forget we are under the glare of television cameras in Washington; and imagine that we are back home in a local courtroom. The defendant before us deserves equal treatment, equal justice. Let us be fair. Let us be reasonable. Let us consider the extenuating circumstances. Let us dismiss this case now.


SPEAKER: The gentleman from Florida.

MCCOLLUM: Mr. Speaker, I yield myself six minutes.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for six minutes.

MCCOLLUM: I would like to yield at this moment to the gentleman from California, Mr. Rogan. Mr. Rogan.

ROGAN: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to respond very briefly to the commentary from the gentleman who preceded the gentleman from Florida in the well, when he said that no reasonable prosecutor or no reasonable judge would come forward on such an overwhelming case of perjury and bring a case before the court.

I feel I have some authority in which to speak on this, having spent 10 years as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County and as a criminal trial court judge in Los Angeles County. Under the Clinton Justice Department since President Clinton became president, some 700 people have been tried and convicted for perjury-related crimes.

As we speak today, Mr. Speaker, some 115 people sit in federal prisons as a result of their conviction on perjury charges. And those are people that were prosecuted and convicted by the Clinton Justice Department. In my own home state of California since Bill Clinton became president, there have been some 16,000 prosecutions for perjury.

So the suggestion that perjury would not be brought in an appropriate case is incorrect. And further, the gentleman's comments go directly once again to the point that we are debating here: Whether the standard that we set during Watergate that no person is above the law will continue to be the standard for our Congress and our country, or whether we are suddenly going to make exceptions for people who happen to have high rank and privilege and share our party affiliation.

I thank the gentleman for yielding.

OWENS: Would the gentleman yield?

MCCOLLUM: I'll reclaim my time. Not at this moment. I'd like to be able to in a minute.

I think it's very important for us to understand today some perspective on all of this we're debating. First of all, those of us on our side of the aisle do not view this as a partisan issue. In fact, as Republicans, it is not in our political interest to see the president of the United States impeached and removed from office. The last thing in the world we would want politically from a rational basis is to see Mr. Gore, Vice President Gore, assume the presidency and be in the office for a while to have combat and to have established that position for the year 2000 elections.

We do believe in principle. We are concerned about what's going to happen to our court system, and what the message would be of failing to impeach. And that's why we are so ardent about this -- for no other reason. Having seen what the president has done, the multiple crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice that I honestly believe he has committed, it would be an irresponsible act on my part to ignore it and to suggest that censure were an appropriate result and an appropriate way to address this.

Now, having said that, let's go over for a minute the facts of where we are with this. What we're dealing with is the president who was sworn into office took an oath to uphold the laws of the nation, then faced a lawsuit, a civil suit in a civil rights sexual harassment suit by a woman named Paula Jones.

Long before that suit had any witness list published, he and Monica Lewinsky had an arrangement that they agreed to lie about the affair that they were having if anybody asked them. And then somewhere along the way in December of a year or so ago, there was a subpoena prepared and a witness list appeared for Monica Lewinsky. And the president called her and told her in a telephone conversation that she was on the witness list and they talked about their cover stories that they had previously discussed about what they would say about what they were doing, so they didn't have to reveal the relationship.

In that same phone conversation, the president suggested she could file an affidavit in order to avoid testifying. He suggested that, I submit, knowing full well that it was going to be a false affidavit. What Monica Lewinsky said, and she said this under oath, and I believe very credibly, to the grand jury -- she said it wasn't as if the president called me and said you know, Monica, you're on the witness list; this is going to be really hard for us; we're going to have to tell the truth and be humiliated in front of the entire world about what we've done, which I would have probably fought him on. That was different. And by him not calling me and saying that, you know, I knew what that meant.

They knew that that affidavit was going to be false, and from that moment on is when the serious nature of this matter became before us.

MCCOLLUM: Because at that moment, the president committed the crime of obstructing the law, obstructing justice. And the path was set for a scheme in which he engaged with Monica Lewinsky and others to conceal the truth from the Paula Jones case and deny Paula Jones her rights and then later to lie to the grand jury, conceal the truth from a criminal grand jury as well as from the public.

What happened next is fairly straightforward. During the period of the month of December, there came up the issue of gifts, because Paula -- Monica Lewinsky had a subpoena to produce any gifts the president had given her in the Jones case. And the president and she had a conversation about that shortly after Christmas, in which she suggested maybe she should hide those gifts or give them to the president's secretary to keep.

The president said, I don't know. I have to think about that. A couple of hours later, the evidence shows that's before us, Monica Lewinsky received a call from Betty Currie. We have a -- the president's secretary -- we have a telephone record showing that call, even though Ms. Currie didn't recollect that she made the call, she thought Monica made it to her. We have a record showing it came from Ms. Currie, who said, according to Ms. Lewinsky, and I believe Ms. Lewinsky on this, that the president suggest that I call you to pick up something. And a little while later, Ms. Currie went over to Lewinsky's home, picked up gifts that Lewinsky packaged and put them under her bed -- another obstruction of justice.

Then in early January, in early January, the president was talking to Vernon Jordan, who's his good friend and counselor, and had arranged for Monica Lewinsky to have an attorney to prepare that affidavit we talked about.

Along the way, in the process of preparing that affidavit, finally on January 7th, she signed it. And Vernon Jordan testified he informed the president of that. Well, what do you know? The next day on January the 8th for the first time, Mr. Jordan, although asked much earlier, often, to help get a job for Monica Lewinsky, by Monica, finally made a call that...


I yield myself three additional minutes.

SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized.

MCCOLLUM: Finally made a call, finally made a call to the head of Revlon Corporation and secured a job for Monica and reported that fact back to the president. And then what happens next?

Well, the president goes to testify.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSWOMAN: Will the gentleman yield?

MCCOLLUM: Not at this moment. The president goes to testify in the deposition he gave in the Paul Jones lawsuit. And during that deposition -- we all saw some of the television film of that deposition in the Judiciary Committee the other day -- the president observed his attorneys referring to the affidavit that he knew was false, and he affirmed the truth of that affidavit that he knew was false. He affirmed the fact that in that affidavit it said that he and Monica essentially were never alone, not just that they didn't have particular relations.

He went on to lie then about the specific acts that he engaged in with her. He was given a definition. And even taking his interpretation of the definition the court in that case gave him, and assuming that that rather far out definition was accurate, if you believe Monica Lewinsky, and she has been corroborated by seven contemporaneously-told friends and relatives who are witnesses in this under oath that what she said is correct, they engaged in sexual activity under the definition in that court, and the president lied about that.

He lied about a lot of other things in that deposition. And he then went on after that while he in that deposition referred often to his secretary, Betty Currie, to then call Betty Currie to come over to visit him the following day, right after he had left the deposition. And he talked to Betty Currie. Why did he call her up? Well, he called her into his office and he said to her, to corroborate, he says, "You were always there when she was there, right? We were never really alone. You could see and hear everything. Monica came on to me and I never touched her, right? She wanted to have sex with me and I can't do that."

Well, Miss Currie twice testified under oath the president said this to her. Any interpretation is ridiculous other than one that assumes the president expected her to be a witness even if she wasn't on the witness list, and that is a crime of witness tampering or obstruction of justice, and the list goes on.

The said fact is, I don't want to be here any more than you do. I don't want to impeach this president any more than you do. This is not a happy day for me or anyone else here. But the president of the United States committed multiple felony crimes, not just one instance, not just having some relationship which we'd have no business being concerned with on impeachment...

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSWOMAN: Will the gentleman yield?

MCCOLLUM: ... but he committed multiple felony crimes of perjury, witness tampering, obstruction of justice. The evidence is very clear about it. And to fail to impeach him would send would send an awful message to the countryside that we have a double standard in this country, that the president, who is the chief law enforcement officer, the commander in chief of the uniformed services of this country, is allowed to get away with perjury.

And I submit if we don't impeach him, we will send a message that will result in more people lying in court and committing perjury than they do already, and that is on the rise.


It is a very, very serious matter. Thank you.

SPEAKER: Gentleman from Michigan.

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I yield now to the gentleman from Louisiana, Mr. Jefferson, three-and-a-half minutes. And I would ask him to yield to me, please.

SPEAKER: Could the gentleman from Michigan restate how much time he's yielding? Three-and-a-half minutes?

CONYERS: Three-and-a-half minutes, sir.

SPEAKER: Thank you. The gentleman's recognized for...

CONYERS: Will the gentleman yield?

JEFFERSON: Yes. I yield to the chairman.

CONYERS: The gentleman from California, Mr. Rogan, a prosecutor, has indicated for the first time in all of our hearings that there were 16,000 cases of perjury in the state of California alone. I would beg him to supply at any time at his convenience any indication for the record what source he uses for that statement. There are some that question whether there are 16,000 cases a year in all of our courts, much less one state.

Now my friend from Florida, Mr. McCollum, has now brought forward a matter that has been aired sufficiently in the Judiciary Committee that he could not possibly have forgotten that the cell phone incident occurred one-and-one-half hours after the gifts were returned. Now, perhaps he has a lapse of memory. The record is clear in our hearings. And why this would be introduced at this time is beyond this member, and I thank the gentleman for yielding to me.

JEFFERSON: Mr. Speaker, at what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step over the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth in their military chests, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of 1,000 years. So spoke President Lincoln in 1838 about the power of America.

But he coupled this declaration of our world dominance with a warning, an admonition, of how we could lose it, which is apropos here. He said then, at what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? Our answer: If it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.

I hope, as Lincoln hoped against hope then, that I am over-wary today about the wounds we are inflicting upon ourselves, our Constitution and our body politic by this unfair rush to judgment against our president. Like Lincoln then, I worry now about the wild and furious passions aimed to bring this president down, rather than an exercise of sober judgment to lift up the true meaning of our Constitution.

Like Lincoln, I worry that even though we are the preeminent power in the world, today this grating, this chipping away at the high ideal of impeachment, leads us further down the road to constitutional death by suicide of a free society.

High crimes and misdemeanors, not all crimes and misdemeanors, is what our Constitution holds as grounds for impeachment. There are no high crimes shown here. But there is a base and basic perversion of the rule of law into a rule of hot blood and a rule of political convenience by a majority bent on getting President Clinton.

Today you may have the votes, but you do not have the high ground. But just remember, as we say in Louisiana, what goes around ultimately, unfailingly and always comes around.


SPEAKER: The gentleman from Florida.

MCCOLLUM: I yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from Arkansas.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized.

HUTCHINSON: I just wanted to respond to Mr. Conyers, the gentleman from Michigan, who raised the issue about the corroboration of Monica Lewinsky's testimony in the cell phone call.

In fact, Monica Lewinsky gave a statement seven months after the December 28th incident concerning the gifts. And in her testimony she was asked how she knew that Betty Currie was coming over.

HUTCHINSON: And she thought that there was a cell phone, or a telephone call and it was by cell phone. The records were checked that corroborated the testimony of Monica Lewinsky, even though it was seven months later. The telephone call was about 3:36, and I think there is documentary corroboration of her testimony.

SPEAKER: The gentleman ...

MCCOLLUM: I yield six minutes to Mr. Bryant of Tennessee, a member of the committee.

SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized for six minutes.

BRYANT: I thank the chair. Let me also respond regarding an inquiry that our colleague from California made on the statistics of perjury from that state. I too have seen those numbers, and I think rather than an annual one-year listing of some 16,000, I think the more accurate statement would be that over the last five years, some 16,000 people have been prosecuted for perjury in the State of California -- on a rising trend, unfortunately, for this country.

Also unfortunate for this debate, for the most part the facts of this case have been conceded. We've dwelt our time on higher things such as: Are these impeachable offenses? And that's a good statement. That's a good question and that's a good area of debate for us.

Had the president limited his conduct to the Oval Office and not stepped outside to participate in the cover up, I would suggest and I think most of my colleagues would agree on the House floor, that we would not be here today. Certainly, we don't agree with what he did in the Oval Office, but that does not rise to the level of impeachable conduct.

This is not about sex. This is about what happens when you take a poll and that poll tells you whether or not to tell the truth. And that poll tells you that they won't accept your perjury. And the president says, well, we'll just have to win. And this case, this impeachment proceeding is about what occurred after that -- the cover up.

One of the charges in this article, series of articles is obstruction of justice. That concerns many of us who heard the evidence. That not only involved the president, but that involved this president of the United States, the chief law enforcement officer of this country, bringing additional people into this, causing additional innocent people to commit crimes.

I cite to you the filing of a false affidavit by Monica Lewinsky; the hiding of evidence; the bringing people, staff members, cabinet members into his office, telling them his version of the story, knowing that they would repeat that story when they were called to the grand jury. That's a serious charge when you not only commit to crimes yourself, but you bring others into that and cause them great, great distress.

Perjury is also very important in this case. This president did not have a lapse of judgment on many occasions. Through a pattern and practice, he gave false testimony in grand jury, in deposition, in answering written interrogatories, and to this very Congress in this very proceeding when he answered the 81 questions.

Now, this president is a lawyer. He's a former law professor at the University of Arkansas. He's the former attorney general for the State of Arkansas. And he very well knows how important people who -- telling the truth is in our court proceedings; how it underpins our judicial system.

Courts have agreed, and yet he continues to parse his words and his own lawyers come in before the committee and says, yes, he misled; he evaded questions; he gave incomplete answers. That is their defense. He parsed his words. And the courts uniformly say that is not right. You cannot focus on the precision of a question or what the -- and ignore what the defendant knows.

The law is clear that the perjury -- the real perjury, the issue is you have to look to the defendant's intent to testify falsely and thereby mislead questioners, which has been the intent of this president consistently throughout this process.

It's unfortunate that we still have that perception of this president. Because of the very events we're involved in today, many people call into question -- Is he giving us complete answers about what we're doing over in the Mideast? Is he evading questions? Is he misleading?

And I don't know. But again, that's the pattern and practice that we've had to deal with and that's one of the concerns that brings many of us to this point where we feel it's necessary.

The office of presidency -- the stature to which it's entitled -- has been eroded by this president and this involvement in this process necessitated by the collision of his own conduct -- not the Congress's conduct, but his own conduct -- with the United States Constitution.

If I might say, there is great stress and turmoil and angst on the floor today. There should be. This is a serious, solemn event -- something that we're all -- all would rather not have occurred.

But as a Congress, we cannot ignore our constitutional responsibility and turn our head and say -- Let's just forget about this. We have to move forward within the authority we have and our only authority is to decide whether to impeach or not to impeach, whether to charge or not to charge.

We have no authority to invent sanctions such as censure or reprimand. If anybody has that authority, it's the Senate.

But we cannot do that. But let me -- let me assure all the members of Congress, I think, of a fact that we all understand, and others that are listening who are concerned about this debate. The office of presidency is bigger than any person that occupies that office for four or eight years. This office will survive. This office will stand. And what we are doing today in debating this process is coming to the point of what conduct we will accept from the president of the United States, from the office of presidency.

And we've heard a lot today about we don't want to dumb down, we don't want to lower the standards for impeachment. I submit to you that the better question that we all ought to be concerned with as members of Congress, as American citizens -- do we want to dumb down, do we want to lower the expectation of the conduct of the chief law enforcement of this country, the commander-in-chief of this country, who sends our soldiers off to foreign lands, in harm's way, the president of the United States? Do we really want to lower that expectation of conduct?

I say we do not, and I say at the end of this day, perhaps at the end of tomorrow's day, that when we vote, we will have made that final decision.

And I thank the chairman for yielding.

SPEAKER: The gentleman...

CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I recognize now the gentleman from New York, Mr. Thomas Manton, the distinguished attorney and member of the House, for three minutes.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from New York is recognized for three minutes.

U.S. REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS MANTON (D-NY): I thank the gentleman for yielding. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the articles of impeachment before the House, and I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

Mr. Speaker, after 14 years -- Mr. Speaker, after 14 years representing the citizens of the 7th congressional district of New York, these will likely be my last votes that I cast as a member of the House of Representatives. They will, ironically, certainly be the most significant, and the ones which will garner the most attention from historians.

Mr. Speaker, there's no question that what the president has done is reprehensible. No one condones his actions. No one excuses his conduct. We all wish he had conducted himself in a more responsible manner. We all want him to be more forthcoming in confronting the charges against him. We cannot, however, vote to overturn two national elections and impeach this president simply because of a perceived lack of contrition on his part.

Mr. Speaker, we must take into consideration the consequences of our actions and weigh them against the purported misdeeds of the president. While I do not agree with the president on each and every issue, I believe he's done a good job as our country's steward over the past six years. Mr. Speaker, I for one am particularly proud and humbled by his unceasing efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland and the Middle East, succeeding where many before him have failed or did not even attempt to act.

In closing, I turn to the words of one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, who said, "Common sense is the foundation of all authorities, of the laws themselves and of their construction." I put to my colleagues that to vote for impeachment flies in the face of common sense and good judgment. We should avoid a dangerous precedent and vote against these articles of impeachment. Our descendants would be ill-served by an impeachment vote which alters the standard for removing a president.

In the end, we must remember that the perfect can be the enemy of the good. The right decision, the just conclusion is a vote for censure.

I thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Florida.

MCCOLLUM: I yield one minute to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. McHale.

SPEAKER: The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for one minute.


SPEAKER: Let me just -- since the gentleman is speaking from that podium, I'd ask the members to be in order there so we can hear the gentleman. Thank you.

You may proceed.

MCHALE: Mr. Speaker, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to salvage any sense of nobility in reviewing the allegations before us. But there is one truth. The most basic rights of the people will be preserved only so long as public officials at every level of government tremble before the law. As a deeply disheartened Democrat, I will be voting yes on impeachment articles 1, 2 and 3.

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Investigating the President


Friday, December 18, 1998

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