ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards



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

Bipartisan group moves to open Senate deliberations

Senators continue to work on censure wording

February 5, 1999
Web posted at: 5:11 p.m. EDT (1711 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 5) -- A bipartisan group of senators Friday launched an effort to open the Senate's closed-door deliberations in President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. According to Senate rules, all impeachment deliberations must be conducted in secret.

"I think the American people have come to believe that government should be open; it should be in the sunshine," said one of the measure's sponsors, Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison  

"The idea that we would go back to any kind of early precedent that would close the trial deliberations on the impeachment of the president of the United States would not be in anyone's best interest," Hutchison said.

The Senate has twice gone into closed session during Clinton's trial, once to debate whether to dismiss the case and again to debate whether to allow witness depositions.

Before the secret session on the motion to dismiss, the Senate rejected, by a 57-43 margin, a move by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minnesota) to open the senators' debate. Five Democrats sided with 52 Republicans to keep the deliberations closed.

A change in the trial rules would take 67 votes.

Harkin and Wellstone pledged again Friday to continue to fight for their "sunshine" motion. But the addition of Hutchison and Republican co-sponsors Chuck Hagel (Nebraska), Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania), and Richard Lugar (Indiana) may turn the tide for the bipartisan version.

Sen. Tom Harkin  

"I think the momentum is moving our way, and I think we have a very good chance to pass this motion," Hutchison said.

The bill is also being co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Democratic maverick Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Feingold was the only Democratic senator to vote against dismissing the charges against Clinton.

"If we close our deliberations at this extraordinary moment in our nation's history, the public will be forever deprived of a full accounting of those proceedings and some may question our willingness to be held accountable for our actions," Lieberman said.

"The public's confidence in government, such as it is, has obviously been shaken by the events of the past year," said Lieberman, an early Democratic critic of Clinton. "We're all going to have to work hard to regain the public's trust... But I think we can begin by allowing the American people to see this terrible, unseemly episode in our nation's history, end on a note of rational and thoughtful debate."

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), who joined Wellstone and Harkin Friday in support of their motion, compared the Senate deliberations to the Super Bowl.

Sen. Richard Durbin  

"I think at probably some moment in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl the Atlanta Falcons might have liked to have the TV cameras turned off," Durbin said. "But they didn't. They knew what the outcome was going to be and they stayed with it, because they knew it was their obligation to play the game through and let America view it. I think that's our obligation today."

Under Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's timetable, the senators would begin their closing deliberations on Tuesday, with all 100 senators having the opportunity to speak for 15 minutes each.

Whether the public gets to view the Senate deliberations or not, no one questions that the Senate will fall short of the 67 votes need to remove Clinton from office. But it is unclear what, if any, alternative punishment the Senate will level against the president.

The idea of a "findings of fact" resolution to be passed before the Senate votes on the articles of impeachment lacks any substantial Democratic support and seems to be dying. Critics have claimed the idea is unconstitutional and changes the standard of support since it would need only 51 votes to pass.

But the movement to censure the president is still alive.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein (California), another early and harsh critic of the president, has been working for weeks on a censure resolution.

Republican Sens. Robert Bennett (Utah) and John Chafee (Rhode Island) are shopping it around on their side of the aisle.

In one draft being circulated, the president's conduct is called shameless, reckless and indefensible.

Feinstein is on a 17th draft in the search for a formula that will be tough enough to attract the president's harshest critics, but not so tough it repels his most ardent supporters, one source says.

CNN's Candy Crowley contributed to this report.

Investigating the President


Friday, February 5, 1999

Search CNN/AllPolitics by infoseek
          Enter keyword(s)       go    help

© 1999 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.
Who we are.