Senate Prepares to Bury Independent Counsel Statute

  • Share
  • Read Later
WASHINGTON: For all the support Republicans gave Ken Starr during the impeachment trial, they sure don't want another one of him. With Senate hearings opening Wednesday on possible revisions to the independent counsel statute, the warm glow of bipartisanship was back in members' hearts as predictions for the Watergate-era law's fate -- from both sides of the aisle -- ranged from dismemberment to death. Take ultra-conservative Mitch McConnell, who hinted at a bipartisan filibuster against the law when it comes up for renewal this summer: "In a perverse sort of way the independent counsel law has actually diminished the importance of ethics in government," he said. "With an independent counsel lurking behind every tree, the public is no longer alarmed when a public official is investigated."

Special Report Republicans were quick to blame the quantity, not the quality, of investigations -- McConnell hastened to add that Starr "did a good job with a bad law" -- and Democrats politely followed suit. But the hearings are sure to be at least a tacit referendum on Starr's performance, and it won't help America's most hated puritan that Janet Reno is still after his hide for investigative abuses. It's certainly making for some interesting political pirouettes -- failed campaign-finance hunter Fred Thompson, who will lead Wednesday's hearings, chose to demonize Reno for not appointing independent counsels. And Democrats were saddled with this irony: The controversial law was allowed to lapse after Iran-contra until 1994 -- when President Clinton renewed it.

Discuss the issues > >