History weighs on Tristate representatives
'Unfortunate but necessary,' Portman says

Sunday, December 20, 1998

BY PAUL BARTON
Enquirer Washington Bureau

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WASHINGTON -- Tristate House members said they were overcome with a sense of history Saturday as they voted on the first impeachment of a president in 130 years.

"I think it will go down as an unfortunate but necessary act by the Congress to uphold the rule of law," Rep. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, said of how history will ultimately judge the impeachment. He voted for three of four articles of impeachment.

The other area Republicans -- John Boehner of West Chester, Steve Chabot of Cincinnati and Jim Bunning of Southgate -- voted for all four articles. Democrats Ted Strickland of Lucasville and Lee Hamilton of Nashville, Ind., voted against all four articles. History "will record that impeachment was the right decision for our Constitution," said Mr. Boehner.

Mr. Bunning's vote is especially significant since he will take over the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Wendell Ford, D-Ky.

The Cincinnati-area members said they reflected on the historical significance of the day as they were walking to the Capitol on Saturday morning.

"As I walked past the Capitol Dome, I said to myself, 'Something very historic is going to happen in that building today.' I felt very sad as a result," said Mr. Strickland.

Messrs. Boehner, Chabot and Portman said they also felt sad. "I knew this was going to be a historic day. You couldn't help but feel the gravity of the situation. You couldn't help but feel a sense of history being made, today and all week," Mr. Chabot said. Mr. Boehner said it was an even tougher vote to cast than his first major vote in Congress -- authorizing military action in the Persian Gulf War.

"Clearly it's the most gut-wrenching for me," he said.

In fact, Mr. Boehner said the whole week will be unforgettable. "It's certainly been the most incredible week that I have ever had in terms of all the turns of events. I felt like I was being sucker-punched about every other hour," Mr. Boehner said.

Tristate Republicans disputed the suggestion that possible failure of the Senate to hold a trial or convict the president would diminish the significance of the impeachment.

"It sends a very strong message that it's not all right for the judicial system to be undermined, a message that we will hold presidents accountable," Mr. Portman said.

Even if there is no Senate trial, he said, "I think there has been a very important statement made, a statement of principle." Mr. Strickland and other Democrats put a footnote on the day by walking out of the chamber in a protest demonstration shortly before the impeachment votes began.

"We did that to indicate our feelings that we were being treated unfairly and should have been allowed to vote on a censure resolution," he said.

Mr. Strickland added, "No one, Democrat or Republican, should take any joy in what has happened today."



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