Local News

North Carolina Lawmakers React to Iraq, Impeachment

Posted December 16, 1998

— The divide is growing deeper in the House of Representatives as the emotional confrontations on impeachment make clear. Lawmakers from North Carolina and the other states wrestle with the possibility of impeaching a president in the middle of a war.

Congressman Mel Watt does not want to open the debate while U.S. forces wage an ongoing bombing campaign against Iraq. "I would not like to have to face the prospect of undermining the confidence of our troops at this point," Watt says.

But the Charlotte democrat believes that if the hearings must commence, censure should be part of the discussion.

"We feel strongly that that is a vote of conscience for some of the members of the House and that people ought to be allowed to vote their conscience," Watt says.

Representative Howard Coble describes the situation as "frustrating," but says the House can get on with its business in spite of recent events.

"We can govern at home and abroad simultaneously. I don't think that our continuing with the impeachment process will in any way increase the danger quotient to our men and women in the field," the Greensboro republican says.

"You've got many folks who say, 'Oh we can't do this cause it will tie up the government for a year.' That's wrong. It will not tie the government up that long at all, unless the folks across the Hill are less adept than I think they are," Coble says.

Representative Walter Jones, a republican from Farmville, agrees. "The business of the nation has to go forward, and it does go forward," Jones says. "I regret that we are in a war-type situation, but still the daily workings of Congress and government goes forward."

Democratic Congressman David Price sits on the other side of the divide. Price says he strongly objects to a debate while service men and women are in harm's way.

"I think it's a wise decision to postpone the debate simply because when we are in a national military effort like this one, you need to have a sense and a display of national unity, of bipartisanship, of focus and of support for that operation," Price says.

As the debate continues, Price feels confident minds are made up about whether to impeach the president.

"There are plenty of reasons for members to be thinking hard and conscientiously about this impeachment vote," Price says.

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