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

After impeachment, all eyes turn to Senate

In this story: December 20, 1998
Web posted at: 10:14 p.m. EST (0314 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics) -- On the day after the House's historic vote to impeach President Bill Clinton, all eyes in Washington turned to the Senate, where the next chapter in the impeachment drama will play out.

Senators, who had largely kept their own counsel as the House deliberated on impeachment articles, have begun speaking out on what they think should be done next, and it is increasingly clear that they, like the country, are divided.

Chelsea and Bill Clinton

The passions generated by those divisions became apparent Sunday when Clinton went to church, where he was greeted outside by an angry parishioner.

"Damn you for what you've done to the nation," the man shouted. "Please resign for the good of the world."

Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, ignored the man, waving instead to about 100 supporters, some carrying pro-Clinton placards.

GOP Whip Nickles: Senate trial not optional

With Clinton making it clear that he won't resign, dialogue on the Sunday talks shows turned to whether the Senate should proceed to a full-fledged impeachment trial or negotiate an agreement that would censure, but not remove, the president.

Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma) said he believes having a trial is not an optional matter.

"The Constitution says if you receive these articles, you'll have a trial," Nickles said on "Fox News Sunday." "I think it can be done very quickly ... I think it could be done in three weeks if the White House wanted to."

"(I) continue to believe that censure is really not worth a tinker's damn," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania). "We are going to be listening to evidence to decide what to do in a fair and impartial, judicious way."

The highly respected former Senate Republican leader, Howard Baker, also warned against trying to abbreviate the constitutional process by skipping a trial and moving straight to censure.

"We're doing much more than simply deciding whether President Clinton should remain in office. We are, in fact, establishing precedent for impeachment in the future," he said on ABC's "This Week."

Breaux: 'Enough, enough, enough'

But some Democratic senators, and even some Republicans, believe that the Senate should try to find a way to avoid a trial for the good of the country.

"I think the people are saying to all of us ... enough, enough, enough," said Sen. John Breaux (D-Louisiana) on "This Week." "I don't know that a trial would give us any additional information that we don't already know about what happened. I mean, does the country really need to know more about what Monica Lewinsky did and when she did it and how she did it?

"We do not have to have a trial. The Constitution says that the Senate shall be the sole trier of an impeachment resolution. It gives us the power to do it, but it doesn't demand that we have to," Breaux said.

Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) said he backs censure because a trial would "tie up three branches of government for the next four months."

"In many ways, the Senate's on trial here in a way, too," he said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "We're the court of last resort, of trying to restore some civility here."

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), said he believes the Senate leadership should take a head count to determine if there is anywhere near the 67 votes needed to remove Clinton.

If not, "then there has to be come consideration to what do you do that is the best under the circumstances to resolve this matter," Hatch said on "Meet The Press."

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) expressed similar sentiments.

"Assuming that two-thirds of the Senate will not vote to remove the president, what is the alternative? I think we need to explore that in debate," Cochran told CNN. "Some have suggested censure. I think it is certainly a possibility that the Senate will decide on some alternative to removing the president from office."

Clinton's Democratic Senate support not as solid

But while conventional wisdom holds that there aren't enough votes in the Senate to convict Clinton, the outcome is far from certain because he may not be able to count on unified partisan support from Democrats, as he did in the House.

From the start of the Lewinsky controversy, some of the president's most vocal critics in his party have been Democratic senators, including Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, Diane Feinstein of California and Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.

However, there are also moderate Republicans in the Senate who frequently cross party lines, including Jim Jeffords of Vermont, John Chafee of Rhode Island and Maine's two GOP senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Correspondent Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.

Investigating the President


Sunday, December 20, 1998

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