As Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr considers sending the House an impeachment report before completing his work, key Republican lawmakers are sending him a message: Something is not necessarily better than nothing.

In an election year, the Republicans say they do not want a report that is "half-baked" or "nibbles around the edges" on whether President Clinton might have committed "high crimes and misdemeanors.""The leadership of both parties desperately hope this issue will be held past November," said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. "They would prefer to do battle (in the fall elections) on the relatively even playing field of today than what might exist after a bomb goes off."

Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., who has introduced an impeachment resolution against Clinton, said there was no danger that Starr would submit a report that would leave Republicans in a bind.

"I have enough faith in Starr to think that anything he presents to us will be substantive," he said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who would likely lead an impeachment inquiry, said, "in an ideal world, I would like to see a complete report." The key question, he said, would be: "Is there enough there for us to analyze?"

Hyde's Senate Judiciary counterpart, Orrin G. Hatch, said Starr will need "awfully strong facts."

Starr's spokesman, Charles Bakaly, says an interim report remains an option but no decision has been made.