Friday, October 9, 1998 Published at 02:37 GMT 03:37 UK
Green light for impeachment inquiry
Members of the House of Representatives voted to launch the formal, historic investigation of Bill Clinton after a tense and, at times, impassioned debate.
The House voted 258-176 to pursue a far-reaching Watergate-style inquiry drawn up by Republicans. Thirty-one Democrats voted with their political opponents for the inquiry. All Republicans voted in in favour.
The inquiry, which has no time limit and is not confined to the Monica Lewinsky affair, is the first constitutional step towards removing Bill Clinton from office.
But the BBC Washington Correspondent, Paul Reynolds, said even if Republicans secure gains in the November elections, few people think they could muster such a majority.
He says there is still the expectation, though not the certainty, that some compromise will be sought in the form of censure by both Houses of Congress.
Democrat plan thrown out
A more limited probe mooted by Democrats was voted down by the House by 236 votes to 198 with 10 Democrats voting against and one Republican in support..
Mr Clinton faces 15 charges, any one of which could be used to topple him from office. They include perjury, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.
Meanwhile, it is reported that Mr Clinton's sworn evidence in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case will be made public on 19 October.
"It's an onerous, miserable, rotten duty, but we have to do it or we break faith with the people who sent us here," said Mr Hyde, who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which formulated the proceedings.
Mr Hyde, who will oversee the inquiry, promised to avoid a "fishing expedition" and asked his Democratic colleagues to work with the Republican majority.
"Too much hangs in the balance for us not to rise above," partisan politics, he said.
Shortly before the debate, the House Democrat Leader, Dick Gephardt, made an impassioned plea to halt the Republicans' march.
"The world economy is in a shambles, our own economy is threatened. Issues like education, health care and economics need to be on the front burner of [the new] congress," said Mr Gephardt.
As the debate unfolded, the White House issued another attack on Republican efforts that might oust the president.
"We don't believe the process has been particularly fair, but as we move forward it is our hope that some of that basic fairness will return," said the presidential spokesman Joseph Lockhart.
He indicated Mr Clinton was unlikely to comment directly after the vote.
"The issue concerns him. But he remains focused on the job he has been elected to do."