President Bill Clinton is facing near-certain impeachment by the 435-member House of Representatives.
Debate on 4 articles of impeachment passed by the House Judiciary Committee last Friday and Saturday is due to commence at 1am Friday AEST.
The Republican Party holds 228 seats in the House, compared to the Democrats 206. There is one independent who generally votes with the Democrats. To stave off impeachment, Clinton requires the support of at least 10 Republican members of the House. With 2 days before the vote is scheduled to take place, his chances appear to be diminishing by the hour as so-called “moderate” Republicans announce their voting intentions. His most recent apology appears, if anything, to have damaged his prospects even further with wavering Republicans.
Impeachment by the House would mean that Clinton would become only the second president in American history to face a trial in the Senate. Conviction by a two-thirds vote of the Senate’s 100 members would remove Clinton from office and Vice-President Al Gore would become the nation’s 43rd President.
Impeachment is roughly similar to an indictment and amounts to the laying of charges against the president. The trial in the Senate would be presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Rehnquist.
The Committee of the Judiciary of the House of Representatives comprises 37 members, 21 Republicans and 16 Democrats. It has held public hearings for the past two months following the submission of the Report of the Independent Counsel, Kenneth Starr, in September. Starr’s report alleged perjury, obstruction of justice and witness tampering by the president in relation to testimony about his relationship with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.
The Judiciary Committee’s 4 Articles of Impeachment may be read here. They can be compared to the 3 Articles of Impeachment voted by the Committee in 1974 against then President Richard Nixon. Nixon resigned the presidency before the full House met to consider his role in the Watergate scandal.
President Andrew Johnson is the only other president to have ever been impeached. He survived by one vote in the Senate.