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Impeachment Engine Grinds On

Despite a lack of popular support, the engine of impeachment grinds on for the House Judiciary Committee.

The goal, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante, is still to finish up hearings by the end of the year. To meet that goal, Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde told the White House he wants to know this week whether the president or his lawyers will make a presentation before the committee next week.

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The White House has several options:
  • The president could make a personal appearance.
  • His lawyers could appear for him or call a defense witness.
  • He could decline an appearance altogether.
The most likely scenario is that the president's lawyers will make a brief defense, but call no witnesses. Their objective at this point is to bring the whole matter to a quick end.

For its part, Congress remains stalled over exactly how President Clinton should be punished, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

On Sunday, some Republicans, like South Carolina Rep. Lindsey Graham, continued to take a hard line.

"Right now, to me, he is an unrepentant perjurer who should lose his job unless he changes his tone with the American people and reconciles with the law," he told the NBC television show Meet The Press.

But other Republicans are afraid that pushing for impeachment will only weaken the party - especially since polls consistently show most Americans are against it.

"I'm afraid the Republican Party is going to come across as the gang that can't shoot straight," said New York Rep. Peter King.

The decision on how to handle the president isn't much easier for Democrats, who don't want to appear to condone lying or sexual infidelity.

Paul McHale was the first House Democrat to call for the president to resign. But now that resignation is unlikely, McHale has drafted a tough resolution that, instead, would "censure and condemn William Jefferson Clinton for having engaged in a pattern of deceitful and dishonest conduct..."

He says a strongly worded censure motion with bipartisan support could conclude the matter in an "honorable" way.

Momentum in Congress seems to be building toward a lesser punishment than impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee continues hearings this week, and is expected to call convicted perjurers and federal judges as witnesses, as a reminder that lying under oath is a serious crime.

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