Congress Tries a Little Tenderness

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Whisper it low -- bipartisanship is coming back in fashion. Just when Capitol Hill looked as if it couldn't get any more riven over the Clinton impeachment process, the Republican leadership has made a number of concessions to disgruntled Democrats -- and a tiny knot of centrist lawmakers from both sides of the highly partisan House Judiciary Committee are making a show, at least, of working together.

37 Angry Congressmen Judiciary chair Henry Hyde rang the changes Monday. There would be, he said, one Democrat and one Republican dispatched to the independent counsel's office to root through the piles of evidence Ken Starr didn't send to Congress -- even though the Dems lost a vital vote on this issue Friday. What's more, Hyde wants ranking Democrat John Conyers to have equal say in calling witnesses to an impeachment inquiry. The criticism that he was no Peter Rodino seems to have struck the silver-haired chairman Hyde harder than we knew.

The White House was cautiously welcoming; Democratic firebrands were more skeptical. "There is no genuine bipartisan conversation yet," said Rep. Barney Frank. Still, four of Frank's more moderate Judiciary colleagues -- Bill Delahunt and Howard Berman for the Dems, Asa Hutchinson and Lindsey Graham for the GOP -- have started lunching together to see if they can't whip this committee into Watergate-like shape. The House, divided against itself, may yet stand.