As the last evidence from independent counsel Kenneth Starr is readied for public release, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are trying to build good will with Democrats in advance of next week's vote on an impeachment inquiry.
"We are trying to accommodate them," the committee's chairman, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., told reporters Monday, saying he was considering granting such Democratic demands as the power to subpoena witnesses and documents concerning the Monica Lewinsky affair.At the White House, spokesman Mike McCurry said officials were waiting to see if Hyde followed up on his promises.
"Certainly actions are more important than words," McCurry said Monday. "But the reassurances given by the chairman today were welcome."
Committee Democrats said Hyde has established a pattern of rigging the process against President Clinton by releasing tapes and transcripts Starr submitted to Congress without allowing the White House a first look. The final batch of 3,000-5,000 documents went to the Government Printing Office Monday and is expected to be made public on Thursday.
Hyde acknowledged that he sees enough evidence to warrant a full-blown inquiry and strongly suggested expanding the probe beyond Clinton's affair with Lewinsky and an alleged cover-up. But with public opinion polls showing sentiment against a lengthy investigation, Hyde announced several efforts to appease Democrats - the strongest signal yet that the panel was moving toward the first impeachment proceedings against a president in 24 years.
Hyde also said the panel's lead Democratic and Republican investigators would meet with Starr's office within a week to go over additional documents that the independent counsel left out of his report to Congress this month because, he said, they were irrelevant. Democrats say the documents may include material that would help Clinton's case.