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GOP OKs Impeachment Money

House Republicans have approved spending $1.3 million for an impeachment probe of President Clinton. Democrats accused the GOP of a "partisan witch hunt."

Overriding Democratic objections, Republicans provided the $1.3 million infusion for the Judiciary Committee, where it will be available to help the GOP prepare for any impeachment evidence from special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Thed GOP also pushed through an additional $1.8 million to help finance a different committee's long-running investigation into alleged campaign finance irregularities.

Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland protested that the new funding was part of a "coordinated effort to harass ... to really undermine the ability of the White House to do the business expected of it."

Illinois Rep. Henry Hyde, who would oversee any impeachment investigation, said earlier in the day that Democrats were resorting to "raw partisan politics," in an attempt to create "an adversarial aura" where none existed.

Some Democrats said it wasn't the chairman of the Judiciary Committee they were worried about, but Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has taken a prominent role in the behind-the-scenes GOP planning for any impeachment inquiry.

"At this point we're more concerned about Dr. Jekyll" than Hyde, quipped Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Democratic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gingrich had spoken two or three times within the past several days with Democratic leader Dick Gephardt about congressional business without broaching the subject of impeachment planning.

The infighting erupted as lawmakers acknowledged they have no firm information on when or whether Starr will submit a report to Congress citing evidence of impeachable offenses by Clinton.

The political calculation was equally uncertain.

Clinton remains high in the public opinion polls, despite a two-month battering over alleged improper sexual conduct, and most Republicans have been reluctant to attack him.

One GOP pollster, Frank Luntz, stood outside a closed-door meeting of the GOP rank and file during the day to hand departing lawmakers a memo suggesting a change in tactics.

"The season of silence must end," advised the memo, although it also said there could be a political backlash on lawmakers who choose to speak out.

Luntz suggested that Republicans begin to publicly ask questions such as "what message is Bill Clinton sending to America?" and "what example is Bill Clinton setting for our children?"

At the same time, he advised Republicans: "Do not talk about 'resignation' or 'impeachment.' Do not even mention those words, at least not until after Judge Starr has made his report."

Written by David Espo
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