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House committee approves impeachment; ERLC’s Land repeats call for resignat

WASHINGTON (BP)–A deeply divided U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved four articles of impeachment against President Clinton, setting up the first House floor vote on the procedure in 130 years.
Clinton, whose attempt to hide an adulterous relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky has led to the historic action, apologized again shortly before the Judiciary Committee cast its vote on the first impeachment article Dec. 11 but said the day after the final article was approved he had no intention of resigning.
The Republican-controlled committee, which voted along party lines with the exception of one article, recommended articles of impeachment for perjury before a federal grand jury, perjury in testimony given in a civil suit, obstruction of justice and abuse of office. The actions mean the full House will reconvene Dec. 17 to debate and vote. If a majority of representatives votes for impeachment, a trial will be held in the Senate next year. A two-thirds majority of senators will be required to convict Clinton and remove him from office.
The House floor vote will be the first on impeachment since 1868, when President Andrew Johnson was impeached. The Senate fell one vote short of removing Johnson from the presidency. In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon, but he resigned before the full House voted.
While a few Democrats have said they will vote for impeachment and a handful of Republicans have committed to vote against it, the vote on the House floor almost certainly will be mostly along party lines. The GOP has 228 members in the House, while the Democrats have 206. A sole independent normally votes with the Democrats.
Twenty-five or more Republicans have not announced how they will vote. The president appeared to do nothing to help his chances with them in the comments he made before and after the Judiciary Committee votes.
In an apology made only minutes before the committee’s first vote on impeachment Dec. 11, Clinton said he wanted the American people and Congress to know “I am profoundly sorry for all I have done wrong in words and deeds.” He did not say, however, he had lied under oath concerning his sexual contacts with Lewinsky in the Oval Office area.
After three articles were approved by the committee Dec. 11 and a fourth Dec. 12, Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde of Illinois and other House GOP leaders called for Clinton to resign. At a Dec. 13 news conference in Israel, however, the president said he had “no intention of resigning. It’s never crossed my mind,” The Washington Post reported.
Clinton also told reporters, according to The Post, he would not acknowledge he had lied under oath, saying, “I can’t do that, because I did not commit perjury.”
His refusal to admit he lied under oath could sway undecided Republicans to vote for impeachment. Rep. Jim Greenwood, R.-Pa., told The Post, “If he had any chance of escaping this thing, he may have really damaged himself with that. Members are going to say to themselves, ‘If this guy cannot say he chopped down the cherry tree, he has to be punished.'”
The head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public-policy agency reiterated his call for the president to resign.
“The president seems unable to grasp either that his and the nation’s interests are not the same, or that the honorable thing to do is to resign for the best interests of the country,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“I believe that the Judiciary Committee, by its vote, has upheld the fact that no one, especially the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is above the law. The president has lied under oath; the president is guilty of perjury, and if he does not pay the constitutional penalty for those actions, then we have subverted the rule of law.”
Land had called for Clinton to resign after the president acknowledged in mid-August he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. Other Southern Baptist leaders who called for the president to resign after his admission included SBC President Paige Patterson, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and North American Mission Board President Bob Reccord.
Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee argued Clinton’s offenses did not reach the level requiring impeachment. After the fourth article was approved, a Democratic-sponsored resolution censuring the president was voted down.
Republicans argue censure is unconstitutional and is inappropriate in dealing with a president. Democrats also say Congress should pay attention to the American public, which opposes impeachment, according to opinion polls.
“For many reasons the president remains popular with a majority of the American people, but we do not have a government of popular opinion,” Land said. “The Internal Revenue Service is remarkably unpopular, but people still pay their taxes, because it’s the law.”
In voting on the four articles of impeachment, Rep. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was the sole Republican to fail to vote for each. Graham voted against the article charging Clinton with perjury in his testimony in the lawsuit brought by Paula Jones. The Democrats all voted against each article.
Clinton acknowledged in August he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky, nearly seven months after denying such allegations. Since then, he has expressed his regret several times. He said at a breakfast for religious leaders in September he was sorry and had asked for forgiveness. In October, a letter from Clinton confessing sin and seeking forgiveness was read to his home church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.