Impeachment process enters electoral phase

THE CURTAIN rose yesterday on part two of Bill Clinton's presidency, on the months, even years, that will be forever associated with impeachment. Regardless of the final outcome and regardless of any other achievements, Mr Clinton is now bracketed with Richard Nixon as one of only three American Presidents to face the shame of a formal impeachment inquiry by Congress.

The vote in the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives on Monday night set the impeachment process irrevocably in train. After hours of forcing amendments to the vote and losing, the 16 Democrats accepted the inevitable and allowed the vote on the main resolution - to advance or not to further investigation of President Clinton - to proceed, open- ended in time and not restricted to the Monica Lewinsky affair.

The full House is to debate and vote on the resolution tomorrow, or on Friday, but the outcome is certain. The only doubt is how many of the 206 House Democrats will cross the floor to vote with the Republicans. Estimates range from a bare 30 to 100.

The determining factors are less individual conscience than the Representatives' assessment of opinion among the voters back home who will decide on their re-election to Congress at the mid-term elections in less than four weeks' time.

Those not running for re-election have already been more outspoken in their criticism of Mr Clinton than those who depend on the party for campaign funds. But constituency polling of voter opinion is in full swing, and surprises cannot be excluded.

Yesterday, Jerome Zeifman, a Democrat elder statesman who was chief counsel of the House judiciary committee at the time of the Nixon impeachment hearings, issued an appeal to fellow Democrats in the anti-Clinton Wall St Journal. "I believe I have a personal responsibility to speak out about the current impeachment crisis," he said. "I believe my fellow Democrats on today's judiciary committee have a moral, ethical and constitutional responsibility to vote to impeach President Clinton." The positions taken by the President and his Democratic defenders, he said, were "indefensible".

In the tense waiting period between the judiciary committee vote and the vote in the full House, the White House was strangely reticent, at least in public. "I think the American public has a right to be disappointed," said Joe Lockhart, the new spokesman, of Monday night's vote, which split strictly along party lines.

Hinting at the line likely to be taken by the White House in coming weeks, he accused the Republican leadership of "pursuing a strategy for electoral advantage'' - in other words placing party political interests above the high judicial considerations that American politicians always claim underlie an impeachment in- quiry. In private, however, the White House was reported to be watching allegiances in Congress exceptionally closely and lobbying hard to limit the scale of Democrat defections.

In the longer term, the White House appears to be pinning its hopes on Mr Clinton's continued popular appeal.

It is optimistic that if Democratic support holds up well in next month's elections, the appetite for impeachment among the President's opponents will faded.

In that case, Mr Clinton could hope to have the impeachment inquiry concluded rapidly and escape with a vote of censure.

The risk in that strategy is that if the Democrats, including candidates who have defended the President, lose heavily, Republican representation in the House (and on the judiciary committee) increases, and the impeachment hearings drag on.

While few forecast that Senate Republicans, even after the elections, could muster the two-thirds majority necessary to impeach the President, the damage from protracted hearings to Mr Clinton's second-term programme could be considerable.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick