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Monday, November 23, 1998 Published at 17:11 GMT


Speaker-elect urges impeachment vote

Livingston: Could wrap up impeachment vote in hours

The incoming speaker of the House of Representatives has said he wants to see a full vote on the impeachment of President Clinton even if it could not command a majority in the House of Representatives.

Signalling his opposition to any censure deal, Republican Bob Livingston said that if, as expected, the House Judiciary Committee approves articles of impeachment he would regard it as wrong to short-circuit the process.

"I think for us to shy away from that responsibility, to try to avoid it, would just be absolutely incredibly wrong."

Speaking on US television, Mr Livingston said: "I would not imagine that (impeachment) would take a lot of debate.

"Two or three hours, vote up or down and be done with it.

"If we did not have the votes to sustain the charge, that would be it," he said.

If the House votes for impeachment, the president would be subjected to a "trial" before the Senate where a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office.


[ image: Q and A: President to give response]
Q and A: President to give response
Observers and decision-makers in Washington are increasingly convinced that Mr Clinton will ride out the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The Republicans have acknowledged that 15 to 20 from their own ranks would vote against impeachment if the Judiciary Committee sends the issue to the full House.

That would be enough to defeat the measure if Democrats stand united against impeachment.

Commenting on continuing speculation that the White House could strike a censure deal with Congress, the speaker-elect said that legislators might not have powers to consider any other penalty.

"The fact is it does constitute a version of plea bargaining which I think is outside the province of the House of Representatives," said Mr Livingston.

Declining to predict the outcome of a vote, he added: "This is the most heavy constitutional responsibility we as members of the House of Representatives have.


[ image: Witnesses: Judiciary Committee moves on]
Witnesses: Judiciary Committee moves on
Charles Schumer, New York Democrat and member of the judiciary committee, said: "I think that the constitution certainly allows the Congress to (consider censure).

"We are not going to have impeachment, but there should be some kind of punishment."

Reacting to the latest moves, White House special counsel Gregory Craig said: "The president has said that we are in favour of any serious and reasonable proposition that has the promise of bringing this to a prompt and just conclusion."

He denied that the White House was negotiating with Capitol Hill leaders.

But officials confirmed that Mr Clinton would respond to 81 questions posed by the judiciary committee when he returns from his tour of Asia-Pacific nations.

Starr speaks

Mr Starr has conducted an interview with a US television network in which he describes the impeachment affair as "a most unfortunate episode in the country's history".

Interviewed for ABC's 20/20 programme, to be screened on Wednesday, he said: "People want to get it over with ... and I understand that fully".

Impeachment hearings are due to continue with the deposition of Daniel Gecker, lawyer for Kathleen Willey, who accused the president of a sexual advance in the White House.



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