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House Gets Impeachment Funds

Over the protest of Democrats, House Republicans have a new $1.3 million on deposit to help prepare for any impeachment evidence against President Clinton that independent counsel Kenneth Starr could submit to Congress.

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"It simply is inappropriate for them to be playing with this money," Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass., charged Wednesday, shortly before Republicans forced approval of the additional funds by party-line vote.

In addition to the $1.3 million earmarked for the Judiciary Committee, the GOP voted $1.8 million to extend a long-running investigation a separate panel is conducting into Democratic campaign fund-raising abuses.

The Judiciary Committee money sparked the loudest protests from Democrats, and Republicans offered varying explanations for how the money would be spent.

Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the Judiciary panel, originally asked for the funds late last year to help conduct a review of Justice Department investigations, including Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to turn over her own campaign fund-raising probe to an independent counsel.

Since then, though, Hyde has said he will recruit staff aides, including a $130,000-a-year senior counsel, who are capable of turning their attention to impeachment preparations if necessary.

"I would hope they could walk and chew gum at the same time," he said Wednesday. "Make a lateral move if that is required."

Hyde today reached back to Illinois to fill the top new staff post, naming Chicago attorney David P. Schippers to the job. Schippers, 67, is a defense lawyer as well as a former federal prosecutor and one-time head of the Justice Department's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section in Chicago. One GOP aide said Schippers, 67, is a Democrat.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, also seemed caught off-guard on Wednesday by questions about the money.

Asked about the subject, he initially told reporters, "We know that Judge Starr will be sending us a report."

Asked a few moments later about his comment, he backtracked.

"I have the expectation we will receive a report from him ... and we should be prepared to deal with it in a professional manner."

Asked again for clarification, he said of his original answer: "Scratch that. Let us say I was a dutiful rat and I took the bait. I really don't want any more cheese. I just want out of the trap."

Clinton's approval ratings remain high, despite a two-month battering over an alleged sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and accusations that he groped fomer White House volunteer Kathleen Willey in the hallway just outside the Oval Office.

And fearful of repercussions, most Republicans have refrained from directly attacking the president.

That has begun to change recently, though, as Republican women challenged Democrats to defend Willey.

And 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.

By DAVID ESPO, Associated Press Writer. ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed