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

Gingrich calls for decorum in Clinton debate

House Speaker Newt Gingrich  

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Sept. 10) -- House Speaker Newt Gingrich opened Thursday's House session asking members to show decorum in any discussion about President Bill Clinton by refraining from making comments "personally offensive to the president."

Quoting House rules, the speaker said members must "preserve that proper restraint which will permit the House to conduct its business in an orderly manner without unnecessarily and unduly exciting animosity" in the House and in other branches of the government.

"The chair will enforce this rule of decorum with respect to references to the president, and asks and expects the cooperation of all members in maintaining a level of decorum that properly dignifies the proceedings of the House," Gingrich said.

Gingrich said the rule was not a restriction on the necessary debate over the president's conduct. "This is not to say the president is beyond criticism and debate or that members are prohibited from expressing opinions about executive policy or competence to hold office," he said.

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt  

"This documented restriction extends to referencing extraneous material personally abusive to the president that would be improper if spoken as the members' own words," he said.

Gingrich and other House leaders said Wednesday that any House debate concerning the president resulting from Independent Counsel Ken Starr's report, delivered to the House, should remain nonpartisan.

Gingrich told CNN that civility and dignity dictated the need for decorum.

"If you're going to bring 435 strong egos into a room to make very difficult decisions, you must have rules of civility. And if you're going to relate in our constitutional system to the office of president, there has to be a certain level of dignity," he told CNN's Frank Sesno.

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said House members wanted fairness and to pursue any proceedings "in the right way," a nonpartisan way.

"Members understand the importance of what is being done here and they want to do it right," said Gephardt.

"They don't want to prejudge it, they want to be objective and they want to do it in exactly the right way, and I think all of our members will insist on that in the days ahead," he said.

Sen. Sam Brownback  

As House leaders called for decorum, civility and no prejudgment of the president, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said Thursday morning on the Senate floor that Starr's report will lead to Clinton's impeachment and called for his resignation.

"Such (impeachment) hearings will surely take a heavy toll on the function of our government, on the trust invested in our civic institutions and on the American people themselves," said Brownback.

"President Clinton could spare us this ordeal. He could quickly and decisively enable our nation to put this sorry chapter in history behind us and to move on."


Thursday September 10, 1998

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