The Last Sorry

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WASHINGTON: Talk about a futile apology. No sooner had the President finished yet another act of contrition than the Judiciary Committee voted 21-16 along party lines to send the first article of impeachment to the House floor -- and sent articles two and three along just a few hours later. The forth and final (and most contentious) impeachment count is debated Saturday. Clearly, Clinton's latest display of remorse didn't go very far. But in a speech aimed squarely at the GOP moderates who will decide his fate next week, it's as far as he is able to go. "Admitting to perjury would have sealed his fate," says TIME deputy Washington bureau chief Jef McAllister. "It would have just convinced Republicans who were leaning toward impeachment that he deserved it."

Special Report If the President's apology softened any GOP hearts in the full House, the first man to hear about it will be Bob Livingston. Although the House Speaker-elect has been been resolutely tight-lipped on the subject, he could liberate Clinton with a tap of his gavel. "If Livingston allows a censure vote on the House floor next Friday," says TIME congressional correspondent James Carney, "impeachment will fall short -- and Bill Clinton wins." Then these few minutes of contrition will have undone a long year of evasion.