Republicans predict Senate will defeat dismissal motion
January 23, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 23) -- When the Senate impeachment trial resumes Monday, senators will take up two motions -- one to dismiss the articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton and one to depose witnesses -- but Republicans predicted Saturday the motion to dismiss will likely fail.
A Republican leadership source says an informal head count within the Republican caucus Saturday morning showed a motion to dismiss planned by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) will be defeated, "likely with unanimous opposition from Republicans."
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Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) said Saturday he was opposed to the motion to dismiss. "I don't believe that is going to happen," he said.
Lott said he did not believe the American people would be "satisfied if we just stopped, sort of in the middle of the game, and said we don't want to hear anything else."
Speaking during a break in the trial Saturday, Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee) said he believes the Senate is "in the relatively final few days" of the impeachment process, but the trial should not be cut short.
"Every member of the Senate ought to have to step up to the plate and announce where they stand on each of these articles ... That's what I intend to press for," Thompson said.
A simple majority of 51 votes is needed to dismiss the charges against Clinton. With the 55 Republican members in the majority, one top GOP staffer assessed the current situation this way: "As of today, the motion to dismiss would not pass. The motion to subpoena witnesses would pass."
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Friday he believed that a motion to dismiss would fail. But Hatch suggested that if 67 votes to convict do not exist after both sides conclude their cases, the Senate could file a motion to adjourn. He said the motion could include language acknowledging the votes to convict do not exist and recognizing the House impeachment as the highest form of censure or condemnation. That would end the trial.
House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde, the lead House prosecutor, released a statement Friday from the House managers urging the Senate not to dismiss the case.
"We hope and expect that the Senate will reject this motion and continue an expeditious search for the facts. History and justice demand a full record of the truth," Hyde said in his statement.
Some senators are floating the idea of a motion to simultaneously dismiss the articles of impeachment and censure Clinton, but Byrd has indicated that is not his intent.
Byrd believes "any talk of censure is premature," according to spokesman Tom Gavin. The senator has indicated censure should be a separate matter for the Senate to consider once the impeachment trial is over.
The West Virginia Democrat is fashioning a motion which he expects to offer when the trial resumes Monday. If the questioning phase of the trial is complete by then, Byrd's motion would likely be the first order of business. A vote could come later Monday after the Senate debates both the dismissal motion and any motions to call witnesses.
Votes on the motion to dismiss are likely to fall along party lines. Byrd's office would not characterize any discussions the senator might have had with Republicans. But the senator's spokesman said, "He is hopeful. He wants to win this."
When the Senate takes up motions on Monday, Byrd's motion to dismiss is expected to be first. It will be addressed by the White House defense and the House prosecutors with one hour allotted for each side. Senators will not debate the motion during this open session.
After the prosecution and the defense have their say on the dismissal motion, the Senate could choose to then go into a closed session to debate the motion. At that time each senator would have 10 minutes to speak.
Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Paul Wellstone (Minnesota) are pushing for an open Senate debate.
Harkin said the American people have a right to watch the proceedings. "When we debate the impeachment of the president of the United States, this is something that affects every citizen of this country, and I believe they have a right again to witness that debate and to witness how and why we reach those decisions," Harkin said.
Wellstone agreed, saying, "We cannot be accountable to the citizens of our country if we go into closed session or secret session and the people in country are all of a sudden cut out; that would be a terrible thing to do in a representative democracy."
The senators are expected to make a motion Monday to open the debate, but such a motion would have to be debated in closed session.
Some Republicans are seeking to cut off all senatorial debate and move directly to a vote on motions.
But before the motion to dismiss is voted on, a motion to depose witnesses would be made. There would be three hours for each side to makes its case on the motion, before the senators would go into a closed debate.
Democratic senators are also seeking to open the Senate debate on the witness motion as well.
Only after there has been debate on both the dismissal and the witness motions would the Senate vote on them. The Senate would first vote on the motion to dismiss and then the motion for witnesses if the dismissal fails.
If the motion to depose witnesses passes, there would be a recess in the trial, though no one knows how long that would be.
Should the motion for witnesses fail, the Senate would then move on to the debate on the articles of impeachment in a closed session. Again, Democratic senators would push to open it up.
During these deliberations each senator may speak for 15 minutes. Conviction requires a two-thirds majority vote of the senators present -- 67 votes if all 100 are present.
Any vote on the articles of impeachment would be taken by roll call in open session.
CNN's Charles Bierbauer, Candy Crowley and Dana Bash contributed to this report.
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