Rep. Henry Hyde, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is fighting a move by House Speaker Newt Gingrich to bypass his panel and name a special select committee to investigate possible impeachment charges against President Clinton.
The Illinois Republican fired off a memorandum to the speaker last week, expressing fears that such a proposal would be divisive within GOP ranks and might politicize the impeachment process, especially if members with more partisan leanings were put on the panel.
“If you start horsing around with the regular order of things, it looks like you are setting up a very political committee,” said one Judiciary Committee source. “If you want a product that gives (Democratic consultant) James Carville the chance to do a light opera on us, this is it.”
Widely respected for his even-handed manner, Hyde dropped a hint on Monday that he might withdraw his own name from consideration for such a special panel, which would be a major blow to the credibility of any impeachment proceedings in the House.
Sources within the Judiciary Committee said they believe that independent counsel Kenneth Starr will report to the House that he has discovered credible evidence of possibly impeachable offenses by the president.
“I think we’re in for a red-hot polarizing summer,” one GOP member said, requesting anonymity.
Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., a member of the Judiciary Committee, called the proposal “an extraordinarily bad idea,” saying there is no precedent for it. If the speaker went through with it, he said, it would be seen “as an effort to insert partisan politics into the process. This is exactly the wrong thing for us to do.”
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