The 13 House prosecutors, who had relentlessly pressed their case in the face of opinion polls that said Americans opposed Clinton's conviction, sat glumly, especially after the perjury article garnered fewer guilty votes than expected.
Five Republicans -- Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan M. Collins of Maine,
John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, James M. Jeffords of Vermont and Arlen Specter
of Pennsylvania -- voted to acquit on both articles of impeachment. On the
perjury count, those five were joined by five other Republicans -- Sens. Slade
Gorton of Washington state, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, Ted Stevens of
Alaska, Fred Thompson of Tennessee and John W. Warner of Virginia.
Specter voted "not proven, therefore not guilty," dashing the hopes of
Senate leaders who had believed he would opt to be recorded as voting
"present" rather than for acquittal. That, at least, would have given the
prosecutors a 50-49 majority on one count.
But the flashes of frustration and bitterness that the prosecutors had
shown in recent days largely faded after the votes. Indeed, the lead
prosecutor, Rep. Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, even suggested that independent
counsel Kenneth W. Starr should not indict Clinton, either while the president
is in office or after his term.
Mainly, the House prosecutors seemed as weary of the Lewinsky scandal as
seems the rest of the nation.
"I'm ready to go home," said Rep. Ed Bryant of Tennessee.
Some Democrats could not resist a few partisan jabs, though no one was
proclaiming outright victory.
The final tally proved that "this was an illegitimate process from the
start," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat.
And some Republicans could not hide their disappointment. Sen. Larry E.
Craig of Idaho accused the White House and the Democratic leadership of
pressuring its party rank and file to stay in line for acquittal, saying that
"the other side saw it as necessary to support their president, and they did."
Few could escape the sense that Bill Clinton, the self-described "Comeback
Kid," had pulled off perhaps his greatest escape act yet.
But in the aftermath, the famously clubby Senate was at its clubbiest,
lacking the partisan acrimony that had marred the House impeachment
proceedings. The votes seemed to reveal a deep gulf between the parties, yet
senators from both sides declared that the trial's tribulations had brought
the senators closer.
"I came out of this with a feeling of boundless faith in these United
States senators," said Sen. John Edwards, a freshman North Carolina Democrat
who described his colleagues as "100 people who just wanted to do the right
In some sense, that bipartisan senatorial camaraderie was at the expense of
one person: William Jefferson Clinton. Half the Senate voted not only to
convict Clinton of high crimes and misdemeanors and to remove him from office,
but also to bar him from ever holding elective office again, a punishment not
even considered for President Richard M. Nixon.
"All reasonable observers admit that the president lied under oath and
undertook a substantial and purposeful effort to obstruct justice," Sen. Pete
V. Domenici of New Mexico, a senior Republican, said in a statement.
Though most Democrats disagreed with Domenici's legal conclusions, their
criticism was just as blistering of Clinton's sexual conduct with a former
White House intern and his subsequent efforts to conceal it. Many of them took
pains not to casually dismiss the House prosecutors' case.
Sen. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, the only Democrat to vote against a
motion to dismiss the charges on Jan. 28, compared Clinton's offenses to those
that led to the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and
those that led to Nixon's resignation. Johnson's offenses were weak, Feingold
said, while Nixon's were overwhelming.
Clinton's, he said, lay in between. "This one is a hard case, and senators
may see it either way," Feingold said, concluding that the president had "just
barely avoided committing obstruction of justice."
Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the case was not frivolous,
just "mistaken" and out of proportion to the offenses. Indeed, Clinton's
stature seemed almost as diminished in many Democratic eyes as it is in
Kerry said "the president acted without courage and even without honor"
throughout the Lewinsky ordeal, and the senator took pains to distance himself
from Clinton the man, saying he would work with Clinton only because he is
"There is very significant respect for the office; that respect will
continue," Kerry allowed. "He is the president of the United States, and we
today made it clear he will remain president of the United States."
Still, White House lawyers said they had reason to feel relieved, if not
ecstatic. After the House impeachment vote, the White House feared that a
groundswell of calls for Clinton's resignation could weaken his hand in the
Senate. House Speaker-designate Robert L. Livingston's surprise resignation
was intended to set an example for Clinton and to provide Republicans a club
with which to pummel the president.
Instead, according to White House legal aides, it might have had the
"Things had the look of spiraling of control, and if there's one thing the
country hates, it's instability," a White House aide said.
The House Democrats' show of solidarity with Clinton after the impeachment
vote might have enraged Republicans, but it did show the Senate and the nation
that the party was holding together. Then, last month, when Robert C. Byrd of
West Virginia, the senior Democratic senator, announced that he would propose
a motion to dismiss the charges, the president knew he would survive.
"It was a somber day, really," the aide said. "But there's a sense of
10 Republicans break ranks in Senate trial; House prosecutors rebuked as articles fail to get a majority; Censure motion fails
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