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

Highlights from the House impeachment debate

December 18, 1998
Web posted at: 8:41 p.m. EST (0141 GMT)

WASHINGTON (December 18, AllPolitics) -- For the first time in 130 years, the full U.S. House of Representatives began to debate the impeachment of the president of the United States. Below are quotes from the heated arguments Friday for and against impeaching President Bill Clinton over his actions to conceal and cover up his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky:

"Resolved, that William Jefferson Clinton, president of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors."

-- House reading clerk Paul Hays, reading the resolution of impeachment

"Boo. Boo."

-- House Democrats, responding to acting Speaker Ray LaHood's rule that members cannot compare the behavior of fellow representatives to the allegations against President Bill Clinton. Speaker-to-be Bob Livingston revealed Thursday that he has had multiple extra-marital affairs.

Rep. David Bonior  

"We're concerned, obviously, because we don't believe we should be here today while our men and women are fighting abroad. And we have expressed that in the first motion of the day with respect to adjournment. We don't believe this is a proper time to be debating removing the commander in chief while thousands of men and women are fighting abroad."

-- Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Michigan)

"As to holding this for a couple of more days, that's a decision our conference has made. We felt the quicker we could go ahead the more we could show the world our democracy works."

-- House Judiciary Committee Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), responding to Democratic requests for delaying the debate until military action in Iraq had ceased.

"It's not a question of sex. Sexual misconduct and adultery are private acts and are none of Congress' business. It's not even lying about sex. The matter before the House is a question of lying under oath."

-- Hyde, leading off the impeachment debate.

Rep. Dick Gephardt  

"In this debate, we are being denied a vote as an alternative to impeachment for censure and condemnation of our president for the wrongful acts that we believe have been performed. We all say that this is a vote of conscience. You get to vote your vote of conscience, and I respect that right. All we're asking for is that we get to vote our conscience. And it's not just our conscience. It's the conscience of millions of Americans who share this view."

-- Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri), criticizing the Republican leadership's refusal to allow a censure motion to come to a floor vote.

"It's no wonder to me and to you that the people of our country today are cynical and indifferent and apathetic about our government and about our country. The politics of smear and slash and burn must end."

-- Gephardt

"The president certainly understood the gravity of his testimony and the expectation of truthfulness ... But is it impeachable? And the answer is yes."

-- Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas), member of the Judiciary Committee

"Benjamin Franklin spoke of impeachment as an alternative to assassination. Today this body is contemplating a constitutional assassination, driven by a naked partisanship, almost without lawful and civil bounds, the Republican majority is moving to impeach an elected president of the United States."

-- Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut)

"Not once did I ever worry about what was going on in Congress. I worried about the strike mission, about where the SAMs were, where the Triple A was, about getting back to my carrier alive. They don't care what's going on here. They want this over too. That's not a factor in this."

-- Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-California), referring to his experience as a pilot in Vietnam, defending the debate's timing as the U.S. is engaged in military action in Iraq.

"I cannot trust him again. Today, we are engaged in war in the Persian Gulf. I was assured by Secretary Cohen and by the director of our Central Intelligence Agency that the timing was justified. Those are honorable men. And because of their testimony, I believe the timing was justified. But I do not believe it was justified because of what President Clinton has said, because I can no longer believe him."

-- Rep. Tom Campbell (R-California)

"President Clinton is not guilty of the trumped up charges presented in these four articles of impeachment. Yes, Bill Clinton is guilty of certain indiscretions, in his private life. However, he did not commit high crimes and misdemeanors. Rather the president is guilty of being a populist leader of who opened up government, and access to poor, to minorities, to women, and to the working class."

-- Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California)

"What we say here today will be but paragraphs perhaps even footnotes in the pages of history to be written by those to come. What we do here will be indelibly printed on the American tradition. Let not this House grant a pardon to the president for his criminal offenses. Let not history look back on this day and say there, on that date, America surrendered the rule of law."

-- Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Missouri)

"The majority decided to give in to the worst within themselves, their abiding hatred of this president. The majority has decided to discard our history, to damage our Constitution and to threaten our future to get the president, all the while pompously pronouncing that they are doing the opposite."

-- Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California)

"I believe perjury does meet at least the definition of high misdemeanor. In my mind, it certainly meets the measure of high crime."

-- Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Connecticut)

Rep. Paul McHale  

"It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to salvage any sense of nobility in reviewing the allegations before us. But there is one truth. The most basic rights of the people will be preserved only so long as public officials at every level of government tremble before the law. As a deeply disheartened Democrat, I will be voting yes on impeachment articles 1, 2 and 3."

-- Rep. Paul McHale (D-Pennsylvania)

"What's incredible is the American people have looked into their conscience and found that forgiveness. People from all walks of life, from every different corner of this country, have found forgiveness. There's only one group of people that I can find that can't find that forgiveness, and that is people that have been locked in struggle over so many questions dealing with the future of this country against President Clinton's agenda over the course of the last four years. And that's what this is all about."

-- Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)

"Those of us on our side of the aisle do not view this as a partisan issue. In fact, as Republicans, it is not in our political interest to see the president of the United States impeached and removed from office. The last thing in the world we would want politically from a rational basis is to see Mr. Gore, Vice President Gore, assume the presidency and be in the office for a while to have combat and to have established that position for the year 2000 elections."

-- Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Florida)

We have no authority to invent sanctions such as censure or reprimand. If anybody has that authority, it's the Senate. But we cannot do that."

-- Rep. Ed Bryant (R-Tennessee)

Rep. Tom Lantos  

"If our Republican colleagues allow a vote on censure, and even if that vote fails, they will give respect and legitimacy to these proceedings. Should a censure vote prevail, they will allow the voice of the true majority to triumph. Some of my very best friends sit on the other side of the aisle, and I would defend their right to vote their conscience with my life, if necessary. I find it unbelievable that they want to limit my right to vote my conscience."

-- Rep. Tom Lantos (D-California)

"As part of my own personal deliberations, in the last 48 hours I've spoken to both former President Ford and Bob Dole. Both men emphatically told me that they -- and of course, both are former House members -- that they would vote to impeach, that they felt it was the duty of the House."

-- Rep. Frank Riggs (R-California). Both Ford and Dole have said they think censure would be the appropriate punishment for Clinton.

"Let us not be confused. Today Republicans are impeaching Social Security, they are impeaching affirmative action, they are impeaching women's right to choose, Medicare, Medicaid, Supreme Court justices who believe in equal protection under the law for all Americans. Something deeper in history is happening than sex, lying about sex and perjury. In 1868, it was about reconstruction and in 1998, it's still about reconstruction."

-- Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Illinois)

"Most of us feel a surreal atmosphere here in America's capital. I envisioned the dome of this magnificent building swathed in black, for this is truly a day of mourning and history will not judge us well. The process that brought us to this point is so fatally flawed ... that no once can reasonably feel that justice has been done."

-- Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York)

"The Senate ... could terminate prior to conclusion. The Senate could impose a penalty, it is my opinion, without removal, or the Senate could convict and remove. The Senate is capable of discharging the duty in one of several ways in limited time. The people's House is the body charged with the duty of accusing, and this is the duty we will discharge."

-- Rep. Howard Coble (R-North Carolina)

Investigating the President


Friday, December 18, 1998

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