Rep. Henry Hyde, (R-Ill.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the impeachment inquiry into the President would go ahead despite Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) statements on Wednesday that prosecution efforts should be delayed until after Mr. Clinton leaves office.
Hyde says hearings and subsequent committee deliberations on articles of impeachment are scheduled for Nov. 19 and will proceed as planned. "I think we have a constitutional duty to perform under the law and the Constitution and we're going to perform it," Hyde said in response to Specter's op-ed piece, published in The New York Times. "I don't know how it's going to come out. I haven't counted noses, I can't predict the end result, but I will predict we will press forward and do our duty."
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Specter says he's trying to convince key lawmakers that the criminal justice system, rather than Congress, should decide President Clinton's fate. "I am suggesting holding the president accountable through the criminal process after his term of office expires, where he could be subject to prosecution for perjury, obstruction of justice and face the distinct possibility of a jail sentence as contrasted with the impeachment proceedings, which I believe will come to naught," Specter told reporters at a news conference.
The Pennsylvania Republican wrote in The New York Times that Judiciary Committee members should avoid proceeding with an action that could tie up the government for months.
Articles of impeachment, similar to an indictment, would become a matter for the Senate if approved by the full House by majority vote. If the Senate conducts a trial, a two-thirds vote would be needed for conviction, unlikely with only a 55-45 GOP majority.
The 21 Republicans on Hyde's committee are mostly staunch conservatives, who intensified their attacks this week on those who maintain that lying about a sexual affair even under oath does not merit impeachment.
In other related news, other Republicans are gearing up to defend Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr when he testifies before a House committee next week about his impeachment probe of the president.
Judiciary Committee Republicans who signaled this week that they were pressing ahead with their investigation of Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky headed to their home districts Tuesday with a staff memo in hand emphasizing the prosecutor's "positive points."
"Judge Starr is one of the country's premier lawyers," begins the two-part memo, obtained by The Associated Press. The second part of the document focused on "response trecent attacks" on Starr by Democrats.
Starr's appearance will mark the first time he has been quizzed publicly about his probe, which began four years ago as an investigation of Clinton's Whitewater land dealings in Arkansas and was expanded to include several other matters, including allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice regarding the president and Lewinsky.