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Legislation Department
February 12, 1999

PRESIDENT ACQUITTED: House Managers Fail to Even Get a Majority

Although the outcome had not been in doubt, when the votes were finally cast in the Senate neither of the articles of impeachment approved by the House were able to garner even a simple majority let alone the two-thirds needed to convict and remove the president from office.

In the end, a number of Republican senators joined a united group of Democrats in defeating both counts. The first article dealing with perjury was defeated by a vote of 45 guilty and 55 not guilty. Ten Republican senators joined the Democrats, including Sens. John Chaffee (RI), Susan Collins (ME), Slade Gorton (WA), Jim Jeffords (VT), Richard Shelby (AL), Olympia Snowe (ME), Arlen Specter (PA), Ted Stevens (AK), Fred Thompson (TN), and John Warner (VA) in voting against article one. The second article on obstruction of justice was defeated by a vote of 50 guilty and 50 not guilty, with five Republican senators voting against: Sens. Chaffee, Collins, Jeffords, Snowe, and Specter.

The Senate promptly adjourned the trial and immediately turned to an effort by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to censure the president for his actions, but the outcome of the effort was placed in doubt when Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) objected on the grounds that any further Senate action harms the constitution and simply provides convenient cover for those unwilling to cast a tough vote in favor of impeachment.

Congress is now in adjournment until after the week-long President’s holiday break, when it will presumably return to begin dealing with the issues of Social Security, health care reform, budget and taxes and more.

What is still unknown regarding the future of the investigation of the president is whether Independent Prosecutor Kenneth Starr will pursue any further action against the president, including a possible indictment in court for wrongdoing.

GOP Leaders in Disarray over Budget and Tax Choices

House Republican leaders are apparently undecided on how tax cuts will figure into the looming budget battles that are about to begin. House Budget Chairman John Kasich (R-OH) wants the House to approve a budget plan early in April that contains his expensive, 10 percent across-the-board tax cut that primarily benefits the wealthy, but, according to House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), "there is no consensus yet." In fact, a number of Republican House members have voiced increasing skepticism about any across-the-board tax cut at this time. Some House members already have turned their attention to more limited, less expensive targeted alternative tax cut plans advanced by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) and others.

Social Security

Debate over the varying proposals to "fix" the Social Security program continued with most Republicans and Democrats supporting radically different plans. The GOP leadership continues to push for privatization of Social Security by permitting workers to place all or a portion of their current contributions to the Social Security system into private investment accounts. A majority of Democratic lawmakers reject privatization because it would require massive benefit cuts, hikes in the retirement age and tax increases to pay for the cost of transition from one system to the other.

In an effort to generate nationwide attention on Democratic efforts to preserve and protect Social Security, Medicare and retirement savings, the House Democratic leadership has asked members to hold district meetings on February 17 to underscore support for President Clinton’s proposal to put aside nearly 80 percent of the expected federal budget surplus over the next 15 years into the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds.

Patients’ Bill of Rights

The Senate Finance Committee delayed hearings on managed care reform until the spring. In the meantime, Finance Chairman William Roth (R-DE) and the ranking Democrat, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), are exploring the possibility of drafting a compromise bill.

Worker Safety

The House of Representatives this week passed two pieces of legislation that would make it more difficult for the federal government to protect worker safety. On Wednesday, February 10, the House passed H.R. 350, the "Mandates Information Act of 1999." This legislation, which passed the House last year but failed in the Senate, would make it more difficult to pass worker safety or environmental protection legislation by creating new and burdensome procedural hurdles. Two amendments that would have scaled back the impact of this legislation were defeated on the House floor. The following day, the House passed H.R. 391, "The Small Business Paperwork Reduction Act." This legislation would suspend fines for all first time violators of "paperwork" requirements. This paperwork is necessary in determining compliance with health and safety laws. Suspending the fines removes the primary incentive for employers to comply with the laws, and could allow workers to be exposed to hazardous conditions for a prolonged period of time. The House rejected an amendment to strike the suspension of fines and allow each agency to establish individual guidelines for dealing with first time violators.


Vice President Gore announced that the Administration will seek a $607 million funding increase for the Head Start program in the FY 2000 budget. If the increase were to be enacted, it would be the biggest increase in history. The funding request would nearly double the level of funding for Head Start since the president took office, reaching an enrollment of 877,000 children.

District of Columbia

The House approved by voice vote legislation that would give District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams authority over nine district agencies now run by the District’s financial control board. The legislation would reverse action taken by Congress in 1997 that transferred control over those agencies from former Mayor Marion Barry to the control board. The House action is seen as a clear indication that the District of Columbia may regain home rule in the near future.