Transcript: House debates articles of impeachment
December 18, 1998
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Wisconsin.
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I have a parliamentary inquiry.
SPEAKER: The gentleman will state his parliamentary inquiry.
SENSENBRENNER: How much time was charged to the gentleman from Michigan for the speech of Mr. Gephardt?
SPEAKER: The chair will say this, because other members have inquired about this, the chair has in the past had a standing policy during important debates to allow for the highest ranking elected officers of the House -- the speaker, the majority leader, the minority leader and the minority whip -- additional time during the time they're making an important statement.
Now, the answer to your question is that Mr. Gephardt took 12 minutes to make his remarks and the chair extended the time to him as a courtesy, as we have done on both sides of the aisle.
The gentleman from Michigan. The gentleman from Michigan.
CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I thank you again for your courtesy and I would now recognize the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Edwards, for two minutes.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Texas is recognized for two minutes.
EDWARDS: Mr. Speaker, the hindsight of history will be harsh on this Congress and this unfair process. For some to speak of their vote of conscience today, even as they deny others a deep vote of conscience, is in itself unconscionable.
EDWARDS: A process whose goal was to emulate the Watergate legacy sadly will leave a legacy more akin to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. In the name of the Constitution, Article II, this process trampled on the Constitution Articles II and Article VI.
In the name the rule of law, this process ignored the fundamental principles of due process and fairness that formed the foundation of that rule of law. In the name of no person is above the law, this process forgot that no citizen should be treated below the law.
In the name of justice, this process ignored the pillar of justice that in our nation every citizen is innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent.
In the name of America, this process raised the ugly debate of who is a real American. History will surely judge this process as a combination of Kafka, "To Kill a Mocking Bird" and Keystone Cops.
Mr. Speaker, if the golden rule were to be our guide who among us, who among us Democratic, Republican in this House would want to be a defendant in the case where the rules of law and fairness were ignored?
EDWARDS: Where secret grand jury testimony against us was released to the world? Where there was not one direct witness? Where your defense attorney was limited to one hour of cross-examining your chief accuser? Where your attorney was forced to give your final defense even before one charge had been formally presented against you? Where the charges of perjury against you were finally presented at the eleventh hour and failed the decent test of decency, which statements were allegedly perjurious? Surely no member of this House would want to be judged by that process. We should not judge this president by that process.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Massachusetts on behalf of the gentleman from Michigan.
FRANK: I yield two minutes to the gentlewoman from Connecticut.
SPEAKER: The gentlewoman from Connecticut is recognized for two minutes.
DELAURO: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to oppose these articles of impeachment. I oppose this action with every fiber of my body, because it is an affront to our Constitution and our democracy.
In my short tenure in the House of Representatives I can recall no other action that has so jeopardized the historic obligations that we are sworn to uphold.
*** Elapsed Time 01:48, Eastern Time 10:48 ***
DELAURO: For me, this is no longer about the president's actions. They were repugnant, embarrassing and immoral.
But this is not a constitutional forum for judging such behavior and exacting punishment. The president's family, the American people and maybe even the courts may eventually speak to his errors.
We might have given voice to our views in the form of a censure resolution, but this House leadership chose not to allow any but the most Draconian action -- impeachment.
It is wrong and it is unfair. It denies the American people their right to representative democracy.
We have the constitutional authority to remove a president only when he or she crosses the line into treason, bribery and high crimes against the Constitution.
Benjamin Franklin spoke of impeachment as an alternative to assassination. Today, this body is contemplating a constitutional assassination. Driven by a naked partisan, almost without lawful and civil bounds, the Republican majority is moving to impeach an elected president of the United States, thwarting the public's will.
They do even as the president commands our troops in battle against Iraq, and even as he seeks to perform his constitutional responsibility with the support of the overwhelming majority of the American people.
DELAURO: This debate, amidst those bombs, more than anything else, symbolizes the madness that has inflamed the partisan fires on the other side of the aisle.
This is a moment for boundaries and not license. This is a moment to allow history to have its sway. This is a moment to allow Madison, Jefferson, Franklin and Washington to be heard in this chamber above the partisan din.
If that spirit were to prevail, I have no doubt that the provocateurs would be stilled and our Constitution preserved. The American people, not the politicians, would have the final say as the founders intended.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Wisconsin ...
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield ...
SPEAKER: On behalf of the gentleman from Illinois.
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield five minutes to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Gekas, a member of the Judiciary Committee.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Pennsylvania is recognized for five minutes.
GEKAS: I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.
SPEAKER: Without objection.
GEKAS: Mr. Speaker and members of the House, I yield 20 seconds to the gentleman from Wisconsin.
SENSENBRENNER: There are some members in this chamber that seem to have forgotten history. We were at war in Vietnam when the hearings on the impeachment of President Nixon occurred. That was because of the serious offenses that were alleged against President Nixon. Today, we're proceeding because of the serious offenses alleged against President Clinton.
GEKAS: Mr. Speaker and members of the House, a loud lament has been heard about some deprivation of the right to vote one's conscience. But that is exactly why we are here today.
GEKAS: And all of us in the ultimate must vote the ultimate sense of conscience. That's what this process is all about. We are facing indeed our moment of truth.
Now the moment of truth for the president of the United States first faced him in December of 1997. It faced him in the nature of a legal document, legal interrogatories that were forwarded to him in pursuit by the Paula Jones attorneys of discovery proceedings in their case. A document laid before the president to be attested to under oath to answer certain questions.
The president faced his moment of truth right there and then. The first item in the legal proceedings that have become the hallmark of these proceedings. And there, under oath, testified falsely. At that moment he began the chain of events that led a month later to his appearance before the deposition lawyers and judge and farther down the line, to the grand jury in August of that year.
But here's the important difference that members must take into account as they evaluate the evidence. The evidence is that when he signed these interrogatories, this first moment of truth to which I allude, there was no parsing of definitions.
GEKAS: There was no argument among the lawyers about meanings and definitions. There was no judge interpolating the opinion of the court into the argument of the judges. There was -- of the lawyers. There was no parsing or mixing or evasion of types definitions and words. This was a straight interrogatory to which the president of the United States added perjurious and false answers.
In a single moment in the Oval Office or wherever he executed this set of interrogatories, he began the long chain of falsehoods that have lead us to our moment of truth here today.
We must exercise that conscience to which all the members have alluded, and recognize that when the president faced that moment of truth, in countless occasions, each time he swept it away and caused himself the difficulty that he brings to our chamber here today.
I yield the balance of my time to the gentlemen from Tennessee.
SPEAKER: The gentlemen from Pennsylvania remaining standing.
BRYANT: My I inquire how much time remains?
SPEAKER: One and one-half minutes.
BRYANT: I might add that I want to, again, honor the Constitution by what we do today. I think we all share that. And while the polls seem to show one thing they also seem to show that many people would like this president to resign, in fact a majority of the people polled. So, -- but we can not govern this country by polls.
We have to be responsible today, it's not our job to create or invent solutions beyond the authority of this House.
BRYANT: We must match our power with the authority that the Constitution gives us. And in light of that, I want to speak briefly and add on to what Mr. Gekas has said about Article II of the impeachment articles.
It is clear there is compelling testimony that in addition to the interrogatories that were answered under oath by this president falsely, there was also testimony given that was false in the deposition that was taken after those interrogatories. On numerous occasions, the president lied under oath, and that's compelling evidence that this occurred. And specifically when his attorney brought up the false affidavit of Monica Lewinsky and said that the sexual relationship term referred to meant that there was no sex of any kind in any manner, shape or form, the president set [sic] silently knowing that this false affidavit was being put into this sexual harassment lawsuit.
He said that he was not paying attention, but any of those that have seen that deposition see that he clearly...
(BANGING OF GAVEL)
Mr. Chairman, may I have an additional three minutes? No time?
SPEAKER: The gentleman's time is expired.
BRYANT: I thank the chair.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Michigan. The chair would announce that the gentle --
BRYANT: (OFF-MIKE) sent to revise and extend my remarks.
SPEAKER: Without objection.
BRYANT: Thank you.
SPEAKER: The chair would announce that the gentleman from Wisconsin on behalf of the gentleman from Illinois has five minutes remaining. The gentleman from Michigan has 11 minutes remaining.
CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to recognize now the distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Rick Boucher, a member of the Judiciary Committee, for two minutes.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Virginia is recognized for two minutes.
BOUCHER: I thank the gentleman from Michigan for yielding. In its 1974 Watergate inquiry, the House Judiciary Committee conducted an exhaustive examination of the constitutional history of the impeachment power.
Then on a broad, bipartisan basis, the committee adopted a report which eloquently states the constitutional standard for use by the House of Representatives of its impeachment power.
BOUCHER: In the committee's words, only that presidential misconduct which is seriously incompatible with either the constitutional form and principles of our government or the proper performance of the constitutional duties of the office of the presidency will justify impeachment. The facts now before the House, which arise from a personal relationship and the efforts to conceal it, simply do not meet that standard.
While the president's conduct was reprehensible, it did not threaten the nation. It did not undermine the constitutional form and principles of our government. It did not disable the proper functioning of the constitutional duties of the presidential office. These facts simply do not meet the standard.
To misuse the impeachment power in this case, as some are now prepared to do, will create a national harm. The divisions on the subject which now exist within our society will harden and deepen. A rift and a divide will occur. There will be a polarization. The president and the Congress will be diverted from their urgent national business, while prolonged proceedings take place in the Senate.
There will be a lowering of the standard for future impeachments, with an inherent weakening of the presidential office. There will probably be instability in the financial markets, with adverse effects for the economy. These harms are unnecessary. The president's conduct was deplorable, but it was not impeachable.
The House today should censure the president for bringing dishonor on the presidential office. That path will bring closure and a restoration of national dignity.
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