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

Moynihan, Byrd drafting censure proposal

December 25, 1998
Web posted at: 2:40 p.m. EST (1940 GMT)

WASHINGTON (ALLPolitics, December 25) -- Two influential Democratic senators, Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, are drafting a proposal to censure President Clinton and avoid his removal from office, CNN learned Friday.

The move is no doubt a relief to the White House, because both senators are independent-minded and strong leaders among their colleagues.


Moynihan was among the Democratic senators who criticized Clinton's behavior in the Monica Lewinsky affair in early September. He also has broken ranks with the president on other occasions.

Moynihan and Byrd met earlier in the week and agreed to draft a proposal that can pass constitutional muster and draw Republican support, a Senate source close to Moynihan told CNN. They intend to take the plan to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle when it is completed, and then run it by Senate Republicans, the source said.

The collaboration may reduce the chances that the Senate will convict Clinton on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice sent to it by the House of Representatives. The House finished its formal duties in the impeachment proceeding against Clinton last Saturday.

It also suggests that the impeachment proceedings may be brought to an end sooner rather than later.

While making it clear that Clinton should be censured, Moynihan was quoted by The New York Times Friday as saying that the moves to oust Clinton might "very readily destabilize the presidency."

Meanwhile, the war of words between House Republicans and the White House continues.

'Politics of personal destruction'

White House Counsel spokesman Jim Kennedy reacted angrily Thursday to comments House Majority Whip Tom DeLay issued Wednesday regarding how the full Senate should examine all of the potential evidence against the president before taking a vote on impeachment.

Rep. Tom DeLay  

"Having put the hammer to his colleagues in the House, he wants to do the same thing to the Senate. But, we think the Senate will reject the politics of personal destruction," Kennedy said.

On Wednesday, DeLay reacted strongly to reports that in the days and weeks ahead, more than a dozen House Republican moderates are expected to come forward and say the Senate should adopt a punishment short of Clinton's removal from office, even though they voted for impeachment.

Earlier this week, five GOP moderates publicly urged the Senate to consider censure, prompting impeachment critics to argue the GOP leadership had strong-armed the impeachment vote through the House by not allowing a vote on censure.

"I can tell you with great certainty that a censure resolution would have failed in the House," DeLay said in a written statement.

Lott to form bipartisan panel

The Texas Republican, a leading advocate of the House taking an up or down vote on the articles of impeachment and not allowing a vote on a censure alternative, warned censure supporters that if the Senate closely examines the evidence they may see the 67 Senate votes needed to remove Clinton from office "appear out of thin air."

"Before people look to cut a deal with the White House or their surrogates who will seek to influence the process, it is my hope that one would spend plenty of time in the evidence room," DeLay said, referring to the office where Independent Counsel Ken Starr's supporting evidence is available to legislators. "If you don't, you may wish you had before rushing to judgment."

As the president finished his last-minute gift shopping, White House officials said his lawyers were still working Christmas Eve to prepare for the trial in the Senate that could begin early next year. At least one Clinton lawyer canceled his vacation to work on those preparations, according to sources.

The House approved two article of impeachment on Saturday, charging Clinton with perjury in his August 17 grand jury testimony and obstruction of justice by trying to conceal evidence of his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern. After passing the article, the House handed the matter over to the Senate.

Two Senate sources told CNN Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) plans to form a bipartisan panel of senior senators to advise him once Chief Justice William Rehnquist is sworn in and the impeachment trial has officially begun.

But one senator, a Republican, told CNN that the group of advisers "could be the group that could broker a deal," meaning the panel would offer advice to Lott when and if the time comes to work out a censure plea bargain.

CNN's Carl Rochelle contributed to this report.

Investigating the President


Friday, December 25, 1998

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