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House Studies More Starr Papers, Gives Democrats More Authority

By Juliet Eilperin and Guy Gugliotta
The Washington Post

Smarting from accusations of partisanship, House Republicans took steps Monday to accommodate Judiciary Committee Democrats seeking a greater role in deliberations on a prospective impeachment inquiry into President Clinton's involvement with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, R-Ill., said he would dispatch a bipartisan staff team to examine additional documents still held by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

The last of the Starr documents submitted to the committee earlier this month have been sent to the government printer for publication later this week. Hyde said the committee examined more than 50,000 pages of documents, but members agreed to withhold the vast majority as irrelevant and publish about 3,000 pages.

Hyde said Republicans would draft rules for the inquiry based largely on the Watergate precedent and would ask a subcommittee to hold a hearing on what constitutes an impeachable offense. Hyde also said he was "inclined to grant some subpoena authority to Democrats."

Democrats have sought these concessions for some time, but Monday they characterized Hyde's moves as insufficient: "He meant it to be a step in the right direction," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. "But we ought to have a committee hearing and then have a vote on what is the impeachment standard."

At the White House, however, spokesman Michael McCurry was somewhat more positive: "Certainly actions are more important than words," McCurry said. "But the reassurances given by the chairman today were welcome."

Hyde indicated for the first time that he personally would support a formal impeachment inquiry, saying that while he could not predict how the House would vote as a whole, "I should think there is enough to warrant an inquiry."

Hyde said he decided to allow committee aides to examine the material still in Starr's possession not because it was relevant to the panel's work but because Democrats "have a lurking suspicion that there may be exculpatory material, and so we're going to accommodate them."