Transcript: House debates articles of impeachment
December 18, 1998
SPEAKER: The time of the gentleman has expired. The gentleman from Wisconsin.
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, I yield myself four minutes.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Wisconsin is recognized for four minutes.
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, in response...
HYDE: Will the gentleman permit me to speak out of turn?
SENSENBRENNER: I yield to the distinguished chairman.
HYDE: I ask unanimous consent... And I thank the gentleman.
(SOUND OF GAVEL)
SPEAKER: Ask the House to be in order.
HYDE: Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that during further consideration of House Resolution 611, the previous question shall be considered as ordered on the resolution to final adoption without intervening motion except one: Debate on the resolution for a period not to extend beyond 10 p.m. tonight, equally divided at the outset and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary, and one further hour of debate on Saturday, December 19, 1998, equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
Two, after such first period of debate, a motion to adjourn. And three, one motion to recommit, with or without instructions, which if including instructions, shall be debatable for 10 minutes equally divided and controlled by the proponent and an opponent.
During consideration of a resolution appointing and authorizing managers for the impeachment trial of William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, the previous question shall considered as ordered on the resolution to final adoption, without intervening motion or demand for a division of the question, except 10 minutes of debate on the resolution equally divided and controlled by the chairman and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary.
HYDE: When the House adjourns on Friday, December 18, 1998, it adjourned to meet at 9 a.m. on Saturday, December 19.
And I yield to my...
CONYERS: Would the gentlemen yield to me?
HYDE: ... friend from Michigan.
SPEAKER: Is there an objection? Does the gentleman reserve the right to object?
CONYERS: Reserving the right to object.
SPEAKER: The gentleman is recognized on his reservations.
CONYERS: And I shall not object. I want to indicate the cooperation and concurrence of this side with the proposal, and I want to thank Chairman Hyde for the cooperation in both our staffs working this out.
HYDE: I thank you, Mr. Chairman...
CONYERS: And I withdraw my reservation.
HYDE: I thank you, and I thank the chair.
Now, thank you for permitting the interruption.
SENSENBRENNER: Parliamentary inquiry...
SPEAKER: Without object it is so ordered. Gentleman from Wisconsin.
SENSENBRENNER: With the parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Speaker, was all that take out of my time?
SPEAKER: It was not taken out of the gentleman's time. You may proceed for four minutes.
SENSENBRENNER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
We've heard a lot about the notion of censure...
SPEAKER: The House will be in order. May we have order?
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker...
SPEAKER: We're not going to proceed until we have order.
Now, the gentleman from Wisconsin is controlling four minutes here.
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker?
SCHUMER: Would the gentleman yield?
SENSENBRENNER: I'm delighted to yield to my friend from New York.
SCHUMER: Mr. Speaker, by -- Mr. Conyers. Mr. Conyers?
By mutual agreement, I would demand a division of the question by article.
SPEAKER: The question will be divided.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Wisconsin may proceed on his four minutes.
SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Speaker, we've heard a lot about censure, and I think it is important to follow the constitutional and historical precedents of the House of Representatives in that censure is not an alternative.
We need look back in 1974, which was the last time the entire issue of impeaching the president of the United States came up. And I would like to quote from the book "How The Good Guys Finally Won: Notes From An Impeachment Summer" by Jimmy Breslin, published by Ballantine Books in 1975.
And it referred to our former very distinguished ...
... Mr. Speaker.
SPEAKER: The gentleman may proceed.
SENSENBRENNER: This book quoted our former distinguished Speaker Thomas O'Neill from Massachusetts as follows: "O'Neill went down the hall picking his way through the tourists to attend a meeting at which John Rhodes, the Republican leader of the House, gave it one last try for Nixon. Rhodes said he wanted the impeachment resolution recommitted with instructions that there should be a vote on censuring the president. 'I'm bitterly opposed to that,' O'Neill said. 'But you wouldn't be opposed to us having a vote on censure, would you?' Rhodes asked. 'Yes, I would,' O'Neill said."
Now, I think that my friends on the other side of the aisle should listen to their former speaker one last time, because on this one he's right.
Now, Mr. Speaker, today we enter the final stage of the impeachment process.
SENSENBRENNER: For those of us who serve on the Judiciary Committee, this has been a difficult and exhausting time. We have reviewed 18 boxes of evidence. We have heard the independent counsel present his case. Constitutional and legal scholars have provided opinions and historical perspective. The president's lawyers have made their case in his defense, and Chairman Hyde offered them 30 hours in which to do so. They didn't use it all.
After examining and weighing all of this evidence and testimony, I believe that the president lied under oath, obstructed justice and abused the power of his office by providing false statements to Congress in response to questions submitted by the Judiciary Committee.
On Wednesday of last week, I asked the president's very able attorney, Charles Ruff, a very simple question. Did the president lie? Mr. Ruff could easily have said no. Instead he split legal hairs and that sealed my decision to support impeaching President Clinton.
Mr. Speaker, most Americans are repelled by the president's actions. The toughest questions I have had to answer have come from parents who agonize over how to explain the president's behavior to their children.
Every parent tries to teach their children the difference between right and wrong, to always tell the truth, and when they make mistakes, to take responsibility and face the consequences of their actions.
President Clinton's actions, every step of the way, have been contrary to those values. But being a bad example is not grounds for impeachment; undermining the rule of law is, frustrating the court's ability to administer justice on private misconduct into an attack of the ability of one of the three branches of our government to impartially administer justice.
This is a direct attack upon the rule of law and our country, and a very public wrong that directly impacts the constitutional workings of our government. Mr. Speaker, impeachment is not a tool to paralyze democracy.
SENSENBRENNER: Instead, it is the only constitutional mechanism available to protect democracy when its institutions are threatened by a president's actions.
Today based upon the evidence that the president lied, obstructed justice and abused power in an effort to prevent the courts from administering justice under law, I rise in favor...
(SOUND OF GAVEL)
I yield myself an additional minute.
SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized.
SENSENBRENNER: I rise in favor of impeaching William Jefferson Clinton. I take no joy in this decision, but I make no apologies, either. America will emerge from this dark period of our history a stronger nation because we have demonstrated once again the resiliency of our democracy and the supremacy of our Constitution, and reserve the balance of my time.
SPEAKER: The gentleman from Michigan.
CONYERS: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to recognize the gentlelady from Texas, Miss Sheila Jackson Lee, a distinguished member of the Judiciary Committee, for three minutes.
SPEAKER: The gentlewoman from Texas is recognized for three minutes.
JACKSON LEE: I thank the Mr. Speaker and ask (OFF-MIKE).
SPEAKER: Without objection.
JACKSON LEE: Will the speaker ask that the House be in order?
SPEAKER: The House will be in order.
(SOUND OF GAVEL)
The House will be in order.
JACKSON LEE: Mr. Speaker, let me first thank our American troops who are now fighting for our liberty. The Declaration of Independence is the promise of that liberty, and the Constitution is the fulfillment. And so today it was with great humility and somberness that I rise on the floor of the House -- on the floor of this House in strong opposition against the articles of impeachment and express my support for censure.
Impeachment, Mr. Speaker, is final.
*** Elapsed Time 03:20, Eastern Time 12:20 ***
JACKSON LEE: It is non-appealable. And the Constitution is the only arbiter of that process.
Article II, Section 4 -- I thank the speaker.
SPEAKER: I want to ask the members on the majority side to take seats.
I wonder if the members on the majority side could show the courtesy to the speaker...
The gentlewoman may proceed.
JACKSON LEE: I thank the speaker very much.
The Constitution is the only arbiter of the process. Article II, Section 4 is clear. Impeachment is for treason, bribery and other crimes and misdemeanors.
This president did not commit impeachable offenses under our Constitution. And today, with such a vote, these chambers will become the incinerator of the Constitution.
There is no fairness in this process. There is no justice. And there is no dignity.
The charges in these articles of impeachment are meritless and not proven.
Perjurious remarks have not been proven. Misleading, evasive statements are not perjurious per the rule of law of the United States Supreme Court under Bronson (ph).
Abuse of power has not been proven. Monica Lewinsky said the president "did not ask me to lie."
And obstruction of justice has not been proven because the president answered the 81 questions.
In light of the revelations of the last 24 hours, I believe not one of us in these chambers -- not one member -- would ask for the resignation of a member so charged.
JACKSON LEE: But as a woman, adultery is adultery. Nevertheless, the majority is recklessly attempting to make impeachable offenses purely private acts, in direct attack on the framers' intent that impeachment was for great and dangerous offenses against the Constitution.
How do we heal this nation? How do we find uncommon courage? The majority must allow us to vote on a freestanding censure resolution constitutionally allowed; that acknowledges that the president was morally wrong, misled the American people, and that the president upon leaving office will be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
To do more lays the shredding of this Constitution at our feet.
Today, with the vote for the articles of impeachment, we will use the ultimate weapon. We will use the ultimate death knell, the removal from office of this duly elected president, for acts not against the president or the government. Our censure resolution does not violate the Constitution. It does not and is not a bill of attainder. It does not restrain the property or the liberty of the president. It is constitutionally sound.
But today, this House will see sunset fall, and as we see it fall -- I'd ask the gentleman for an additional 15 seconds? I'd ask the gentleman for an additional 15 seconds?
CONYERS: I yield an additional half minute to the gentlelady.
SPEAKER: The gentlewoman is recognized.
JACKSON LEE: I thank the gentleman for his kindness. Today, our vote leads into the darkness of a vile attack on the Constitution. We leave here today void and empty because our president will have been toppled against the will of the people of the United States.
Mr. President, if you can hear me, do not resign. This is not a parliamentarian form of government.
JACKSON LEE: My colleagues, to you I say heal our nation. Rise and vote for censure. Do the just and right thing. For it is written, Mr. Speaker, judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.
(SOUND OF GAVEL)
Vote for a censure resolution and abolish this unseemly act against our president and the Constitution.
I yield back.
SPEAKER: The chair would remind all members to address their comments to the chair.
Let me make an announcement for both sides. The chair will recognize managers from the Committee on the Judiciary on either side of the aisle, endeavoring to maintain equality between the two sides in the consumption of time available. At a prescribed hour, we'll determine that -- where we're at, and then we'll move on from there.
The gentleman from Florida.
MCCOLLUM: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I yield two minutes to the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Bliley.
SPEAKER: The gentleman's recognized for two minutes.
BLILEY: I thank the gentleman for yielding. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend.
SPEAKER: Without objection.
BLILEY: Mr. Speaker, this is a sad day, a sad day for this country. We shouldn't have to be here. If the president had done what he should have done, we wouldn't be here, and admitted wrongdoing right from the start.
We have heard said in this body, Mr. Speaker, that this is different from Watergate. But really, is it? In Watergate, the president lied to the American people. This president lied to the American people. In Watergate, the president did not commit perjury. This president, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the people of this country, did commit perjury.
BLILEY: Either we are a nation of laws or we are a nation of men. If we are a nation of laws, then the highest and the lowest are subject to the same law. There is no preferential treatment and we and our Constitution grants none.
The president, in my opinion, obstructed justice. He attempted to cover up. To say this is just about sex is to say that Watergate was just about a third-rate burglary. Nothing is further from the truth.
This president sought to cover up a crime. And if we allow this to stand without the ultimate punishment which is afforded the Constitution, which charges us as the people's body to make, we have not done our duty and history will so remember.
I like to quote and paraphrase, in closing, the words of our colleague from South Carolina, Mr. Graham.
He said earlier in the proceedings -- Twenty-five years ago, we had Watergate, and the American people today think the Congress reached the right decision.
I hope that 25 years from this day, people will think that we made the right decision.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
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