Congress at War Over Clinton

The debate over what to do with the President is coming to a head. Bipartisanship, if it ever existed, is dying.

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WASHINGTON: With some of the air having leaked out of the impeachment balloon in the wake of President Clinton's videotape performance, the backroom maneuvering on Capitol Hill has become increasingly intense -- and openly partisan. Speaker Newt Gingrich nixed minority leader Dick Gephart's request to strictly timetable the House impeachment probe Wednesday, saying it "puts the cart before the horses." An angry Gephardt responded by denying Gingrich a joint photo-op following their meeting Wednesday, perhaps the most potent political snub there is. It's a sign that Democrats are taking heart from the President's poll numbers and getting behind the White House's "censure plus" plan -- censure plus a personal apology to Congress, perhaps, or censure plus a large fine -- in an effort to get this over with. "Republicans have to face the reality that an overwhelming majority of the American people do not want the Clinton presidency to end," said New Jersey senator Robert Torricelli. "Reasonable people should come together."

Special Report Reasonable people on both sides of the aisle, however, are up for reelection. Both parties have constituencies to satisfy, and wedge issues to do that with. Republicans would like to vote for impeachment hearings before they recess, to show anti-Clinton voters they're being tough. Democrats would like a protest vote on "censure plus" at the same time, to show voters they're being tough but fair. Expect a lot more photo-ops to be denied before this matter is resolved.