Gingrich rejects Democrats’ request for limiting impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker Newt Gingrich rejected a call from the House’s top Democrat Wednesday to impose a time limit on a looming impeachment inquiry and suggested President Clinton speed the process by having reluctant aides answer grand jury questions.
In a swift rebuttal, presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said Gingrich, the leader of House Republicans, will bear the blame for a process that could “drag on and on and on endlessly” in defiance of the public’s wishes.
The volleys from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue underscored the hardening of partisan lines a few weeks before national elections, even as both sides professed to favor a cooperative approach to the nation’s first impeachment inquiry since Watergate a generation ago.
Republican officials said the Judiciary Committee would probably meet next week to hear senior lawyers lay out the evidence that Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr has submitted, much of which has been made public. The full House would vote for a formal impeachment inquiry before lawmakers adjourn in early October, and hearings would begin after the Nov. 3 election.
One Republican familiar with the deliberations said GOP officials were considering a plan to allow the Judiciary Committee to enlarge its inquiry to include additional facts that might be considered impeachable offenses. That would permit the committee to range far beyond Clinton and his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and into areas such as alleged fund-raising violations in the president’s re-election campaign.
Democrats served notice they would vigorously contest any expansion of the case beyond Starr’s evidence relating to Ms. Lewinsky.
“We do not believe that this referral of one matter, which he (Starr) thinks may contain impeachable offenses, launches a fishing expedition into every possible wrong that’s gone on anywhere in the world over the last six years,” said Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, the Democratic leader in the House.
For his part, Gingrich also scoffed at Democratic suggestions for the equivalent of a plea bargain under which Clinton would be spared impeachment, but censured, possibly fined and otherwise punished.