GOP Impeachers Say They Don't Really Mean It

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WASHINGTON: Obviously, not everybody in the House read the fine print. “We are not convinced, and do not want our votes interpreted to mean, that we view removal from office as the only reasonable conclusion of this case,” wrote four moderate Republicans in a letter sent Tuesday to Senate leader Trent Lott. The Senate, of course, is painfully aware that there’s no older and wiser body to get them off the hook with voters -- which is why Sen. Robert Byrd, the watchdog for Senate rules, grudgingly called a bipartisan mercy move “not unconstitutional.”

Special Report But with White House flacks from Joe Lockhart to Al Gore stumping for censure until their voices crack, Byrd had a warning for Clinton: “There must be no ‘deal’ involving the White House.” And Judiciary Committee head Orrin Hatch went on “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” Monday night to point out that in the ‘90s, noble bipartisanship just means you didn’t have the votes. “There's a lot of ways that this problem can be resolved,” he said, “if there's not a two-thirds vote to convict.” That’s just how Tom DeLay sold it to those four House members -- if a censure passes, he has to give them their souls back.