Congress: How It Works

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    • 00:01

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Congress opening day, written by William C. Clarke,narrated by Edward Roehling]

    • 00:13

      NARRATOR: The Constitution makes Congress the first branch,and reserves to it the national law making power.In Article 1, Section 4, it sets out the requirementthat Congress meet at least once a year.Amendment, elections.The development of political parties and traditionnow dictate that once every two years, all bills which have not

    • 00:33

      NARRATOR [continued]: become law are dead, and Congressmust begin its work anew.All of the members of the House must stand for reelectionat the same time, every two years.Each of these elections could change control of the Housefrom one party to another.When this happens, it is particularly importantto have a structure in place to ease the transition,

    • 00:53

      NARRATOR [continued]: because the office of Speaker will change hands, as well.When the 435 men and women of the House of Representativesmeet together on the first day, they are just435 newly elected members.Let's look at how they organize themselves.First, at the agreed time, the Clerkof the House from the previous term

    • 01:14

      NARRATOR [continued]: calls the chamber into order.The clerk is not a member, but an employeeare hired by the majority party of the last Congress.Second, the representatives choose their leader,the Speaker.This is really more of a formality,because the majority party selects the personsit wants for leadership.Since that party has more than 50% of the votes,

    • 01:34

      NARRATOR [continued]: its choice, made in a party meeting some time before,will be Speaker.On this first day, everyone knows who the party caucusor conference has chosen.This may well have been done as early as the previous November.Notice how full the House chamber is.On the opening day, not only spouses but alsothe families of members are invited to attend.

    • 01:56

      NARRATOR [continued]: Members of the Senate may be seen in attendance.When the Speaker changes, the customis for the former House Speaker or Majority Leaderto accompany the new leader to the rostrum.The leader of the minority party makes a short speech,clarifying his party's new role.

    • 02:11

      DICK GEPHARDT: As Democrats, we came to Congressto fight for America's hardworking middle incomefamilies, the families who are working often for longer hours,for less pay, for fewer benefits in jobs they are notsure they can keep.We together must redeem their faith that if they work hard

    • 02:31

      DICK GEPHARDT [continued]: and they play by the rules, they can build a betterlife for their children.Mr. speaker, I want this entire Houseto speak for those families.The democratic party will.That mantle, we will never lay to rest.

    • 02:55

      NARRATOR: The gavel, the symbol of office, is exchanged.And then he introduces the new Speaker.

    • 03:02

      DICK GEPHARDT: You are now my Speaker.And let the great debate begin.I now have the high honor and distinct privilegeto present to the House of Representativesour new Speaker, the gentleman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich.

    • 03:29

      NARRATOR: And the new Speaker takes center stageto recognize former leaders, to accept his elevation,to thank those who voted for him, and to speak of his hopesfor the future.

    • 03:45

      NEWT GINGRICH: Let me say first of allthat I am very deeply grateful to my good friend, DickGephardt.I couldn't help but when my side maybe over reactedto your statement ending 40 years of Democratic rulethat I could never look over at Bob Michael, who has often been

    • 04:07

      NEWT GINGRICH [continued]: up here and who knows that everything Dick saidwas true, that this is difficult and painful to lose.And on my side of the aisle, we have for 20 electionsbeen on the losing side.And yet there is something so wonderful about the processby which a free people decides things, that in my own case

    • 04:30

      NEWT GINGRICH [continued]: I lost two elections and with the good help of my friend, VicFazio, came close to losing two others.And I'm sorry guys, it just didn't quite work out.And yet I can tell you that every time whenthe polls closed and I waited for the votes to come in,I felt good because win or lose, we've

    • 04:50

      NEWT GINGRICH [continued]: been part of this process.I feel overwhelmed in every way, overwhelmedby all the Georgians who came up,overwhelmed by my extended family that is here,overwhelmed by the historic moment.I walked out and stood on the balconyjust outside the Speaker's office

    • 05:11

      NEWT GINGRICH [continued]: looking down the Mall this morning very early,and I was just overwhelmed by the view, whichtwo men I've introduced know very, very well.I [INAUDIBLE] know very, very well.And just the sense of being part of America,and being part of this great tradition.I have two gavels, actually.Dick happened to use one that-- maybe this was appropriate.This is a Georgia gavel I just got this morning, done

    • 05:32

      NEWT GINGRICH [continued]: by Dorsey Newman of Tallapoosa, whodecided that the gavels he saw on TVweren't big enough or strong enough.So he cut down a walnut tree in his backyard, made a gavel,put a commemorative item, and set it up here.So this is a genuine Georgia gavel.I'm the first Georgia Speaker in over 100 years.The last one, by the way, had a weird accent, too.Speaker Chris was born in Britain.

    • 05:53

      NEWT GINGRICH [continued]: His parents were actors, and they came to the US.A good word, by the way, for the value we get from immigration.And secondly, this is the gavel that Speaker Martin used.Now, I'm not sure what it says about inflation of government,if you put them side by side.

    • 06:09

      NARRATOR: With the two speeches over,the new Speaker takes the official Oath of Officefrom the Dean of the House, the title for the longest servingHouse member.

    • 06:18

      JOHN D. DINGELL: Do you solemnly swearthat you will support and defend the Constitution of the UnitedStates against all enemies, foreign and domestic,that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same,that you take this obligation freely,without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,and that you will well and faithfully dischargethe duties of the office on which you are about to enter,

    • 06:40

      JOHN D. DINGELL [continued]: so help you God?

    • 06:40

      NEWT GINGRICH: I do.I do.

    • 06:42

      JOHN D. DINGELL: Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

    • 06:51

      NARRATOR: Next, the Speaker swearsin the rest of the members of the House

    • 06:54

      NEWT GINGRICH: --elections.If the members will rise, the Chairwill now administer the oath of office.Raise your right hand, please.Please, all of you, raise your right hand.Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defendthe Constitution of the United Statesagainst all enemies, foreign and domestic,

    • 07:14

      NEWT GINGRICH [continued]: that you will bear true faith and allegianceto the same, that you take this obligation freely,without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,and that you will well and faithfully dischargethe duties of the office in which you are about to enter,so help you God?

    • 07:30

      HOUSE MEMBERS: I do.

    • 07:31

      NEWT GINGRICH: Congratulations.The gentlemen and gentlewomen are nowmembers of the 104th Congress.

    • 07:41

      NARRATOR: As you can see, each stepis accompanied by much applause and excitement.Next, each party reports to the Housethe selections it has made for its party leadership positions.

    • 07:52

      NEWT GINGRICH: The chair recognizes the gentlemanfrom Ohio, Mr. Boehner.

    • 07:56

      JOHN A. BOEHNER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairmanof the Republican Conference, I am directed by that conferenceto officially notify the House that gentleman from Texas,the honorable Richard K Armey, hasbeen selected as the Majority Leader of the House.

    • 08:12

      NEWT GINGRICH: The chair recognizes the gentlemanfrom California, Mr. Fazio.

    • 08:16

      VIC FAZIO: Mr. Speaker, as Chairmanof the Democratic Caucus, I have beendirected to report to the House that the Democratic membershave selected as Minority Leader the gentlemanfrom Missouri, the Honorable Richard A Gephardt.

    • 08:29

      NEWT GINGRICH: The chair recognizes the gentlemanfrom Ohio, Mr. Boehner.

    • 08:32

      JOHN A. BOEHNER: Mr. speaker, as Chairmanof the Republican Conference, I am directed by that conferenceto notify the House officially that the Republican membershave selected as our Majority Whipthe gentleman from Texas, the Honorable Tom DeLay.

    • 08:45

      NEWT GINGRICH: The chair recognizes the gentlemanfrom California, Mr. Fazio.

    • 08:49

      VIC FAZIO: Mr. Speaker, as Chairmanof the Democratic Caucus, I have beendirected to report to the House that Democratic members haveselected as Minority Whip the gentlemanfrom Michigan, the Honorable David E Bonior.

    • 08:60

      NARRATOR: This descriptive term indicatesthe work they do to get members to votein the desired way on various pieces of legislation.Next, the House by resolution selects or electsits new Clerk.

    • 09:14

      NEWT GINGRICH: The Clerk will report the resolution.

    • 09:16

      HOUSE READING CLERK: House Resolution Number 1,resolved that Robin H Carle of the Commonwealth of Virginiabe, and she is hereby chosen the Clerk of the Houseof Representatives, that Wilson L Livingood of the Commonwealthof Virginia be and he is hereby chosenSergeant at Arms of the House of Representatives,that Scott M Faulkner of the state of West Virginiabe and he is hereby chosen Chief Administrative

    • 09:37

      HOUSE READING CLERK [continued]: Officer of the House of Representatives,and that Reverend James David Ford of the Commonwealthof Virginia be and he is hereby chosenChaplain of the House of Representatives.

    • 09:47

      NARRATOR: Once again, the majority partyhas chosen these people in advance.However, the minority also selects its own candidatesas a way to honor its workers.

    • 09:57

      NEWT GINGRICH: --agreed to.The chair recognizes the gentlemanfrom California, Mr. Fazio.

    • 10:01

      VIC FAZIO: Mr. Speaker, may I offer an amendmentto the resolution offered by the gentleman from Ohio.

    • 10:06

      NEWT GINGRICH: The clerk will report the amendment.

    • 10:08

      HOUSE READING CLERK: The amendmentoffered by Mr. Fazio of California,for the remainder of House Resolution 1that Thomas O'Donnell of the state of Marylandbe and he is hereby chosen Clerk of the Houseof Representatives, that George Kundanis of the Districtof Columbia be and he is hereby chosen Sergeant at Armsof the House of Representatives and that MartyThomas of the District of Columbiabe and she is hereby chosen Chief Administrative

    • 10:29

      HOUSE READING CLERK [continued]: Officer of the House of Representatives.

    • 10:32

      NEWT GINGRICH: The question is on the amendment offeredby the gentleman from California.All those in favor say aye.

    • 10:37

      HOUSE MEMBERS: Aye.

    • 10:37

      NEWT GINGRICH: Those opposed, say no.

    • 10:38

      HOUSE MEMBERS: No.

    • 10:40

      NEWT GINGRICH: The no's have it, and the amendmentis not agreed to.

    • 10:43

      NARRATOR: Next, the officers of the House are sworn.Then the rules of the House are adopted.Rules have been codified ever since the earliestdays of Congress, and are currentlycontained in a book which runs to hundreds of pages.Essentially, unless the previous Congresshas passed some reforms, these rules remain the same.

    • 11:10

      NARRATOR [continued]: Then about eight votes on a resolutionto inform the Senate that it is organizedand is ready to do business.

    • 11:16

      NEWT GINGRICH: --the resolution.

    • 11:17

      HOUSE READING CLERK: House Resolution Number 2,resolved, that the Senate be informedthat a quorum of the House of Representatives has assembled,and that Newt Gingrich, a Representative from the stateof Georgia, has been elected Speaker,and that Robin H Carle, a citizen of the Commonwealthof Virginia, has been elected Clerkof the House of Representatives for the 104h Congress.

    • 11:35

      NEWT GINGRICH: Without objection, the resolutionis agreed to.

    • 11:38

      NARRATOR: In its final organizing task,the house names the members of permanent committees.By the 1920s, the House of Representativeshad grown so large that except for ceremonial occasionsand final debates or votes, the work of the bodyhad to be turned over to a number of committees.Over the years, the number of these committees

    • 11:58

      NARRATOR [continued]: and subcommittees has increased.Once bills are introduced, they aresent to committee for consideration and amendment,and either die there or are sent back as final reportsto the House for debate and final action.The volume of bills is so great that there is even a committeeto sort out the times and circumstances

    • 12:19

      NARRATOR [continued]: for their presentation.It's called the House Rules Committee.Obviously, to chair any of these committeesis to have considerable power.Next comes a resolution to notify the Presidentthat Congress is assembled and ready for communications.

    • 12:33

      RICHARD K. ARMEY: --a privileged resolution,and ask for its immediate consideration.

    • 12:37

      NEWT GINGRICH: The clerk will report the resolution.

    • 12:40

      HOUSE READING CLERK: House Resolution Number 3,resolved, that a committee of two membersbe appointed by the Speaker on the partof the House of Representatives to joinwith the committee on the part of the Senateto notify the President of the United Statesthat a quorum of each house has assembled,and Congress is ready to receive any communication that hemay be pleased to make.

    • 12:57

      NEWT GINGRICH: Without objection, the resolutionis agreed to.The chair appoints as members of the committeeon the part of the House to join a committeeon the part of the Senate, to notifythe President of the United Statesthat a quorum of each house has been assembled,and that Congress is ready to receive any communicationthat he may be pleased to make, the gentleman from Texas, Mr.Armey, and the gentleman from Missouri, Mr. Gephardt.

    • 13:19

      NARRATOR: This done, the House is organizedand ready to do business.Meanwhile, over in the Senate, little is required.Because only 1/3 of its 100 members stand for election,the Senate can operate as a continuous body, with its rulesand leaders already in place.Remember also that the Vice President of the United Statesis the President of the Senate.

    • 13:39

      NARRATOR [continued]: The majority party in the Senate selects a President Pro Temto serve in the absence of the Vice President, whichin recent years is more often than not.Essentially, the Senate is consideredto be organized when its 30-some new or re-elected memberstake the oath.Then new bills can be introduced,and the session begins.So ends this ceremonial yet necessary beginning,

    • 14:03

      NARRATOR [continued]: unless-- which would be unusual-- the Speaker hasdecided to make this a working day, the members,their spouses, and their families,slowly leave the chambers.They will choose their own method of celebrating.Today is their day to rejoice.Tomorrow, the real work begins.

    • 14:25

      NARRATOR [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING][Executive Producer, Roger Cook][Writer & Director, William C Clarke][Post Production & Special Effects, Harold K. Rogers][Special Thanks To GOP-TV, US Houseof Representatives, US Senate]

    • 14:49

      NARRATOR [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING][Congress-- Impeachment Powers][MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 15:11

      REPRESENTATIVE: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye.All persons are commanded to keep silent,on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representativesis exhibiting to the Senate of the United StatesArticles of Impeachment against William Jefferson Clinton,President of the United States.

    • 15:32

      NARRATOR: Impeachment, like the Electoral College,is one of those things studied briefly by students,and then put away as perhaps an interesting but antiquatedquirk of the otherwise great documentcalled the Constitution.Most students, most people in America generally,have never believed that either of these odditieshave any effect on their daily lives,

    • 15:55

      NARRATOR [continued]: or really on their government.But after 200 years in effect, the United States of the 1990shad a chance to see how each of these could impact us.And interestingly, they both affected one president,William Jefferson Clinton.In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president

    • 16:18

      NARRATOR [continued]: by a majority of the members of the Electoral College,even though nearly 60% of the voting populationeither voted against him or for some other candidate.Four years later, he received a comfortable majorityof both electors and popular votes,to truly confirm him as the nation's leader.Then amazingly, just two years later,

    • 16:39

      NARRATOR [continued]: he was impeached and then tried by Congress.Let us focus for now on the impeachment process,and leave the question of the Electoral Collegefor another time.[MUSIC PLAYING]For most of our history, for most Americans,if they bothered to think about impeachment at all,

    • 16:59

      NARRATOR [continued]: it was a little understood and even less usedconstitutional provision, studiedat the appropriate time in school,and promptly forgotten after the test.In fact, impeachment and trial hasbeen a process used more than a dozen times since the beginningof the Republic, and extending throughout

    • 17:19

      NARRATOR [continued]: the 19th and 20th centuries.It has been used because at the national level,our judges are appointed for life, or good behavior.There is no way to unelect them.Even if they commit a crime, are tried, and are sent to jail,they may still be federal judges.Only the impeachment process can remove them from office.

    • 17:43

      NARRATOR [continued]: So the process has had to be used on occasion for that judgewho dishonored the office.In this process, the two houses of Congress constitutionallydivide the task.The House investigates and impeaches,or brings the charges.And the Senate tries the case and sits in judgment.This process is somewhat like the criminal process

    • 18:05

      NARRATOR [continued]: of presentment and trial, outlined in the Fifth Amendmentof the Bill of Rights.But to the ordinary citizen, this processis not internalized because it really doesn'taffect his or her daily life.The problems of one federal judge probably locatedin another part of the country, on cases

    • 18:26

      NARRATOR [continued]: which have nothing to do with them,do not rivet their attention.So even though Congress has from time to timebrought action in these cases, and even though one caseeven extended to a Supreme Court Justice himself,we have paid little attention.

    • 18:46

      NARRATOR [continued]: We do register concern when impeachment and trialis contemplated against the President of the United States.Americans all can participate in one way or anotherin electing the President, for whom we can vote to retainor dismiss every four years.And today, we have a two term limit on presidentsso that whatever happens, we get a new person every 8

    • 19:09

      NARRATOR [continued]: or 10 years.[MUSIC PLAYING]So it is the possibility of a presidential impeachmentwhich gets the headlines, the talk on radio,and the internet, and the attentionsof pundits on television, as well as our own.And it is presidential impeachment

    • 19:30

      NARRATOR [continued]: which is so very rare.There have been instances where the President madean unpopular decision, as President Truman did whenhe fired Douglas MacArthur over the General's actionsin the Korean War.In that case, a member of Congresschose the occasion to cry that we had no choice but to impeachthe President, or as in the case of President George Bush, when

    • 19:53

      NARRATOR [continued]: impeachment resolutions were filed, just in casehis action against Iraq in Desert Storm proved a defeat.But historically, there have beenonly three serious attempts at such action.Generally, politicians and legal scholarshave felt it better to let the public decide on removalat the appropriate time.

    • 20:14

      NARRATOR [continued]: On three occasions, however, a majority in Congresshas decided that presidential actions were serious enoughto warrant action before the end of a presidential term.The Constitution of the United Statesis the source for that decision.It states in Article II, Section 4, the President,

    • 20:34

      NARRATOR [continued]: Vice President, and all civil officers of the United Statesshall be removed from office on impeachment for, and convictionof treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.Article I, Section 2, Clauses 4 and 5,say that the House of Representativesshall have the sole power of impeachment.

    • 20:56

      NARRATOR [continued]: The Senate, Article I, Section 3, Clause 6,has the exclusive power to try those impeached by the House.When sitting for that purpose, theyshall be on oath or affirmation.And that when the president of the United States is tried,the Chief Justice of the United States shall preside.Finally, it says that no person shall

    • 21:18

      NARRATOR [continued]: be convicted without the concurrence of 2/3of the members present.Until Bill Clinton, no president, save Andrew Johnson,had ever been tried by the Senate.And no president after Johnson had ever been impeached.Attempts to convict and remove Johnson from office for failureto follow a constitutionally questionable law which did not

    • 21:40

      NARRATOR [continued]: allow the president to fire his own cabinet officersfailed by one vote in the Senate.In the 1970s, after the House committeeinvestigating Watergate charges voted impeachment,President Nixon resigned rather thanwait for the almost inevitable impeachmentaction of the full House of Representatives.

    • 22:02

      NARRATOR [continued]: So it is that William Jefferson Clinton,in the last year of the 20th century,became the second president in American historyto be impeached and tried for high crimes and misdemeanorsagainst the United States.Because there have been so few of these actionseven attempted, and because the first and second ones were

    • 22:24

      NARRATOR [continued]: 100 years apart, the circumstances and the resultingprocesses changed.For instance, there were no tape recordersat the time of the Johnson trial, much less videotape.There was no radio, there was no television,and there was no internet.In addition, the Congress and the President eachhad a very small staff by today's standards

    • 22:46

      NARRATOR [continued]: with which to handle the case.These and other changes affected the process.In the Johnson case, the House investigated sufficientlyto decide impeachment was in order,and the Senate held court with witnesses and testimonyas in a familiar trial.

    • 23:06

      NARRATOR [continued]: It was, however, a political action and highlypartisan in character.This was not the state against an individual.This was one branch of government judging another.But personalities always play a role.Even though Johnson had run with Abraham Lincolnon the Republican ticket, he was viewed by many

    • 23:27

      NARRATOR [continued]: as a Southern Democrat put on the ticketonly for convenience's sake.Furthermore, he, like Vice President Quaylemore recently, was criticized from the beginning,and found it difficult ever to influencea favorable national impression in a majority of Americans.Many within his party believed that Johnson's actionsfrom day one had brought shame upon the office.

    • 23:50

      NARRATOR [continued]: He was even accused of being intoxicated on Inaugural Day.When the framers wrote the Constitution,they did not visualize a two party system,and therefore perhaps failed to providefor the highly partisan characterthat each presidential impeachment has taken.

    • 24:12

      NARRATOR [continued]: Of course, in the Nixon case, audio tapeswere uncovered by a Senate committee, which investigatedthe actions of the Administration involvingpolitical pranks and a break in at the Watergatecomplex in Washington, DC, prior to committee actionby the House of Representatives.These tapes eventually were the keyto evidence most incriminating to the President.

    • 24:34

      NARRATOR [continued]: Because the process in the Nixon casenever actually came before the House for a vote,when the Clinton proceedings ensued,the actual process was in some doubt.Since the Constitution is essentially silent on process,whatever is done can either be a positive precedentfor the future, or a negative one.

    • 24:57

      NARRATOR [continued]: Scholars and congressional staff researched the proceedingsof the Constitutional Convention.They considered writings by Alexander Hamilton.They reviewed the proceedings against federal judges,and the Johnson trial.They review the degree of legal due process,and the circumstances of the alleged wrongswhich would cause the actions to rise to the level of dismissal

    • 25:20

      NARRATOR [continued]: from office.One of the more vexing questions revolvedaround the question of the meaning of high crimesand misdemeanors, and whether theyhad to endanger the Republic, or simply demeanthe office of the President.Old English law held that crimes by one of high station in life

    • 25:41

      NARRATOR [continued]: were automatically high crimes.If the President was such a person,the next question was whether or nothis actions had to endanger the Republic,or just bring shame upon the office?In the Johnson trial, there was no questionthat the President had attempted to disregarda law of the United States.Questions revolved around the definition of high crimes,

    • 26:03

      NARRATOR [continued]: and whether the violation of a questionably unconstitutionallaw was sufficient to remove a President from office.In the Clinton case, the House committee never agreed.Instead, the Republican majority arguedthe President had committed the crimes of perjuryand obstruction of justice, and that he, as the chief law

    • 26:26

      NARRATOR [continued]: enforcer of the United States, had committedan impeachable offense.The Democratic minority argued that crime or not,the president's lying about and attemptsto cover up a private sexual matter couldbe understood, if not forgiven.In any case, they did not rise to the levelof an impeachable offense.

    • 26:50

      NARRATOR [continued]: Further complicating these proceedingswas another new circumstance, the interpositionof the Independent Counsel Law.As we said, in previous cases, the Congress essentially eitherinvestigated on its own, or it directed an agencyof government to investigate for it,and to report its findings as testimony,

    • 27:11

      NARRATOR [continued]: along with that uncovered directly by the committee.In the Nixon Watergate case, the Presidentattempted to stop the investigationby firing one Attorney General of the United Statesand intimidating another.Not only was this seen as obstruction of justice,but it also became the reason for a new Independent Counsel

    • 27:31

      NARRATOR [continued]: Law, passed by a Democratic congress after Nixon was gone.In the Clinton case, the independent counselappeared to many to be highly political,and seemed more like a prosecutor.He did the investigating and then brought the evidencefirst to a grand jury, and then to the House committee,which itself acted as a grand jury might be expected to do

    • 27:53

      NARRATOR [continued]: when considering an indictment.[MUSIC PLAYING]In the committee, each side was given time to present its case.The committee considered first whether the evidence added upto crimes, and second, whether therehad been sufficient wrongdoing to warrant removal.Democrats felt comfortable callingfor a censure vote, rather than impeachment.

    • 28:15

      NARRATOR [continued]: Censure would amount to an official statementof disapproval.Republicans felt the evidence presentedby the independent counsel was so compellingthat lying under oath had occurred,and that the President had tried to cover up what had happened,that they were required to complete the process.In addition, they noted that therewas no constitutional provision for censure rather than

    • 28:38

      NARRATOR [continued]: for impeachment.As a result, the majority did not allow a vote on censure.The committee proceeded to a vote on impeachment.The final vote followed party lines.The next step was to carry the case to the whole House, wheremembers on each side debated.Only a few of the Democratic minority members

    • 28:60

      NARRATOR [continued]: crossed over to vote with the Republican majority.So by a simple majority, President Clintonbecame the second President in history to be impeached.If history, process, precedent, and customwere in short supply in the impeachment proceedings,those for the trial in the senate were also short.

    • 29:22

      NARRATOR [continued]: Only once had the Senate sat in judgment of a President.The Constitution gives little light, other thanto provide for the Chief Justice to preside,and the Senators to hear the evidence and decide.Much guidance was provided by rules and procedures adoptedby the Senate after the Nixon years.

    • 29:43

      NARRATOR [continued]: Then, the Democratic majority determinedto have a set in place just in case.Now, the Republicans were determined to follow them.The first step after notification of impeachmentwas to set a time for formal notification, whenthe House managers, as they were called,would come to the Senate and present the charges.

    • 30:05

      NARRATOR [continued]: For this step, the President Pro Tem of the Senatewas in charge.He presided until the trial began.[MUSIC PLAYING]At the appointed time, the designated membersof the House Judiciary Committee,acting as prosecutors, filed in and formally presented charges.Once the senate was introduced to the Articles of Impeachment,

    • 30:28

      NARRATOR [continued]: or charges against the president,partisan bickering broke out.Quickly, the leadership of both partiescalled a closed door meeting to developa process acceptable to each.What resulted was a closely scripted processfor much of the trial.Chief Justice Rehnquist, who was to preside,

    • 30:49

      NARRATOR [continued]: was sworn in by the President Pro Tem.He too followed a prepared script,and relied on the parliamentarian when necessary.If the Chief Justice presided, clearly the Majority Leader,Trent Lott, was the floor manager for the proceedings.In a series of meetings, the leadershiphashed out the ground rules for this case,

    • 31:10

      NARRATOR [continued]: and set the process for future, similar situations.All meetings and all actions were eitherby consensus-- as the Congress calls it, without objection--or decided by majority vote.Each side, House managers, and lawyers for the President,had a chance to argue all the on record evidence.

    • 31:31

      NARRATOR [continued]: Equal time was given.Next, all of the senators were given a chanceto ask each side questions through the Justice.He read the questions, and recognized the proper sideto answer.Neither side used questions to seek hard facts.The next step was to present formal rebuttal arguments.

    • 31:51

      NARRATOR [continued]: One final preliminary vote closed deliberations.As the Senate voted on each of the Articles of Impeachment,the vote fell shy of the needed 2/3.As in the Johnson trial, but by a much larger number,the President won the day.The Clinton case left the process

    • 32:11

      NARRATOR [continued]: with some serious questions for the future.Given the highly partisan nature of the legislative branchand its inability to agree on a definition of high crimesand misdemeanors, one can only wonderwhat action by a President save wholesale bribery or treasoncan ever lead to dismissal by impeachment.

    • 32:32

      NARRATOR [continued]: Will a popularly elected Senate everchoose to try a President when the oppositionparty has less than a 2/3 majority of the members?There was one consequence of this action.At midnight on June 30, 1999, the Independent Counsel Lawcreated to remedy the problems concernedwith the Nixon Watergate Case was allowed quietly to expire.

    • 32:56

      NARRATOR [continued]: Even independent counsel Starr suggested that thiswas the best fate for it.Scholars will continue to study the process,and Congress will institute new rules.Impeachment may never occur again,or it may come much sooner than anyone expects.

    • 33:17

      NARRATOR [continued]: But clearly, to the President's benefit,the current American public has spoken.It must be convinced of serious public wrongsto the detriment of the Republic.Lacking this, it wants none of this practicalit saw in the latest impeachment and trial.The founding fathers were quite farsighted

    • 33:38

      NARRATOR [continued]: when they created the great documentwe call the Constitution.It is brief.It provides only an outline.It suggests, rather than dictates.It leaves to each generation the task of filling outthe method and details.Still, it does render this extreme measurea time consuming and difficult procedure.

    • 34:00

      NARRATOR [continued]: Perhaps that is as it should be.For sure, this is another exampleof the enduring strength of our American Constitution.[MUSIC PLAYING][MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 34:32

      NARRATOR [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING][Congress-- Impeachment Powers]

    • 34:55

      REPRESENTATIVE: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye.All persons are commanded to keep silent,on pain of imprisonment, while the house of representativesis exhibiting to the Senate of the United StatesArticles of Impeachment against William Jefferson Clinton,president of the United States.

    • 35:16

      NARRATOR: Impeachment, like the Electoral College,is one of those things studied briefly by studentsand then put away as perhaps an interesting but antiquatedquirk of the otherwise great document calledthe Constitution.Most students, most people in America generally,have never believed that either of these odditieshave any effect on their daily lives,

    • 35:39

      NARRATOR [continued]: or really on their government.But after 200 years in effect, the United States of the 1990shad a chance to see how each of these could impact us.And interestingly, they both affected one president,William Jefferson Clinton.In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president

    • 36:02

      NARRATOR [continued]: by a majority of the members of the Electoral College,even though nearly 60% of the voting populationeither voted against him or for some other candidate.Four years later, he received a comfortable majorityof both electors and popular votesto truly confirm him as the nation's leader.Then amazingly, just two years later,

    • 36:23

      NARRATOR [continued]: he was impeached and then tried by Congress.Let us focus more now on the impeachment process,and leave the question of the Electoral Collegefor another time.[MUSIC PLAYING]For most of our history, for most Americans,if they bothered to think about impeachment at all,

    • 36:43

      NARRATOR [continued]: it was a little understood and even less usedconstitutional provision studied at the appropriate timein school, and promptly forgotten after the test.In fact, impeachment and trial hasbeen a process used more than a dozen times since the beginningof the Republic, and extending throughout

    • 37:03

      NARRATOR [continued]: the 19th and 20th centuries.It has been used because at the national level,our judges are appointed for life, for good behavior.There is no way to unelect them.Even if they commit a crime, are tried, and are sent to jail,they may still be federal judges.Only the impeachment process can remove them from office.

    • 37:27

      NARRATOR [continued]: So the process has had to be usedon occasion, for that judge who dishonored the office.In this process, the two houses of Congress constitutionallydivide the task.The House investigates and impeaches,or brings the charges.And the Senate tries the case and sits in judgment.This process is somewhat like the criminal process

    • 37:49

      NARRATOR [continued]: of presentment and trial, outlined in the Fifth Amendmentof the Bill of Rights.But to the ordinary citizen, this processis not internalized, because it really doesn'taffect his or her daily life.The problems of one federal judge,probably located in another part of the country,on cases which have nothing to do with them,

    • 38:12

      NARRATOR [continued]: do not rivet their attention.So even though congress has from time to timebrought action in these cases, and even though one caseeven extended to a Supreme Court Justice himself,we have paid little attention.We do register concern when impeachment and trial

    • 38:33

      NARRATOR [continued]: is contemplated against the President of the United States.Americans all can participate in one way or anotherin electing the President, for whom we can vote to retainor dismiss every four years.And today, we have a two term limit on presidents,so that whatever happens, we get a new person every 8

    • 38:53

      NARRATOR [continued]: or 10 years.[MUSIC PLAYING]So it is the possibility of a presidential impeachment whichgets the headlines, the talk on radio and the internet,and the attentions of pundits on television, as well as our own.And it is presidential impeachment

    • 39:14

      NARRATOR [continued]: which is so very rare.There have been instances where the president madean unpopular decision, as President Truman did whenhe fired Douglas MacArthur over the General's actionsin the Korean War.In that case, a member of Congresschose the occasion to cry that wehave no choice but to impeach the President.Or as in the case of President George Bush,

    • 39:37

      NARRATOR [continued]: when impeachment resolutions were filed just in casehis action against Iraq in Desert Storm proved a defeat.But historically, there have beenonly three serious attempts at such action.Generally, politicians and legal scholarshave felt it better to let the public decide on removalat the appropriate time.

    • 39:58

      NARRATOR [continued]: On three occasions, however, a majority in Congresshas decided that presidential actions were serious enoughto warrant action before the end of a presidential term.The Constitution the United Statesis the source for that decision.It states in Article II, Section 4, the President,

    • 40:18

      NARRATOR [continued]: Vice President, and all civil officers of the United Statesshall be removed from office on impeachment for and convictionof treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.Article I, Section 2, Clauses 4 and 5,say that the House of Representativesshall have the sole power of impeachment.

    • 40:40

      NARRATOR [continued]: The Senate, Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6,has the exclusive power to try those impeached by the House.When sitting for that purpose, theyshall be on oath or affirmation.And that when the president of the United States is tried,the Chief Justice of the United States shall preside.Finally, it says that no person shall

    • 41:02

      NARRATOR [continued]: be convicted without the concurrence of 2/3of the members present.Until Bill Clinton, no president, save Andrew Johnson,had ever been tried by the Senate, and no presidentafter Johnson ever been impeached.Attempts to convict and remove Johnson from office for failureto follow a constitutionally questionable law which did not

    • 41:24

      NARRATOR [continued]: allow the President to fire his own cabinet officersfailed by one vote in the Senate.In the 1970s, after the House committeeinvestigating Watergate charges voted impeachment,President Nixon resigned, rather than waitfor the almost inevitable impeachmentaction of the full House of Representatives.

    • 41:46

      NARRATOR [continued]: So it is that William Jefferson Clinton,in the last year of the 20th century,became the second president in American historyto be impeached and tried for high crimes and misdemeanorsagainst the United States,Because there had been so few of these actions even attempted,and because the first and second lines were 100 years apart,

    • 42:09

      NARRATOR [continued]: the circumstances and the resulting processes changed.For instance, there were no tape recordersat the time of the Johnson trial, much less videotape.There was no radio, there was no television,and there was no internet.In addition, the Congress and the President eachhad a very small staff, by today's standards,

    • 42:30

      NARRATOR [continued]: with which to handle the case.These and other changes affected the process.In the Johnson case, the House investigated sufficientlyto decide impeachment was in order,and the Senate held court with witnesses and testimony,as in a familiar trial.

    • 42:50

      NARRATOR [continued]: It was, however, a political action, and highlypartisan in character.This was not the state against an individual.This was one branch of government judging another.But personalities always play a role.Even though Johnson had run with Abraham Lincolnon the Republican ticket, he was viewedby many as a southern democrat, put on the ticket only

    • 43:13

      NARRATOR [continued]: for conveniences sake.Furthermore, he, like Vice President Quaylemore recently, was criticized from the beginning,and found it difficult ever to influencea favorable national impression in a majority of Americans.Many within his party believed that Johnson's actionsfrom day one had brought shame upon the office.

    • 43:34

      NARRATOR [continued]: He was even accused of being intoxicated on Inaugural Day.When the framers wrote the Constitution,they did not visualize a two party system,and therefore perhaps failed to providefor the highly partisan characterthat each presidential impeachment has taken.

    • 43:55

      NARRATOR [continued]: Of course, in the Nixon case, audiotapeswere uncovered by a Senate committee which investigatedthe actions of the Administration involvingpolitical pranks and a break in at the Watergatecomplex in Washington, DC, prior to the committee actionby the House of Representatives.These tapes were the key to evidence most incriminating

    • 44:17

      NARRATOR [continued]: to the President.Because the process in the Nixon casenever actually came before the House for a vote,when the Clinton proceedings ensued,the actual process was in some doubt.Since the Constitution is essentially silent on process,whatever is done can either be a positive precedent

    • 44:38

      NARRATOR [continued]: for the future, or a negative one.Scholars and congressional staff researched the proceedingsof the Constitutional Convention.They considered writings by Alexander Hamilton.They reviewed the proceedings against federal judges,and the Johnson trial.They reviewed the degree of legal due processand the circumstances of the alleged wrongs

    • 45:00

      NARRATOR [continued]: which would cause the actions to rise to the level of dismissalfrom office.One of the more vexing questions revolvedaround the question of the meaning of high crimesand misdemeanors, and whether theyhad to endanger the republic or simply demeanthe office of the President.

    • 45:20

      NARRATOR [continued]: Old English law held that crimes by one of high station in lifewere automatically high crimes.If the President was such a person,the next question was whether or nothis actions had to endanger the Republic,or just bring shame upon the office?In the Johnson trial, there was no questionthat the president had attempted to disregard

    • 45:42

      NARRATOR [continued]: a law of the United States.Questions revolved around the definition of high crimes,and whether the violation of a questionably unconstitutionallaw was sufficient to remove a President from office.In the Clinton case, the House committee never agreed.Instead, the Republican majority argued

    • 46:04

      NARRATOR [continued]: the President had committed the crimes of perjuryand obstruction of justice, and that he, as the chief lawenforcer of the United States, had committedan impeachable offense.The Democratic minority argued that crime or not,the President's lying about and attemptsto cover up a private sexual matter couldbe understood, if not forgiven.

    • 46:26

      NARRATOR [continued]: In any case, they did not rise to the levelor an impeachable offense.Further complicating these proceedingswas another new circumstance, the interpositionof the Independent Counsel Law.As we said, in previous cases, the Congress essentially either

    • 46:46

      NARRATOR [continued]: investigated on its own, or it directed an agencyof government to investigate for it,and to report its findings as testimony,along with that uncovered directly by the committee.In the Nixon Watergate case, the Presidentattempted to stop the investigationby firing one Attorney General of the United Statesand intimidating another.

    • 47:08

      NARRATOR [continued]: Not only was this seen as obstruction of justice,but it also became the reason for a new independent counsellaw, passed by a democratic congress after Nixon was gone.In the Clinton case, the independent counselappeared to many to be highly political,and seemed more like a prosecutor.He did the investigating, and then brought the evidence

    • 47:29

      NARRATOR [continued]: first to a grand jury, and then to the House committee,which itself acted as a grand jury might be expected to do,when considering an indictment.In the committee, each side was given time to present its case.The committee considered first whether the evidence added upto crimes, and second, whether there

    • 47:51

      NARRATOR [continued]: had been sufficient wrongdoing to warrant removal.Democrats felt comfortable callingfor a censure vote, rather than impeachment.Censure would amount to an official statementof disapproval.Republicans felt the evidence presentedby the independent counsel was so compellingthat lying under oath had occurred,and that the president had tried to cover up what had happened,

    • 48:13

      NARRATOR [continued]: that they were required to complete the process.In addition, they noted that therewas no constitutional provision for censure rather thanfor impeachment.As a result, the majority did not allow a vote on censure.The committee proceeded to a vote on impeachment.| final vote followed party lines.

    • 48:35

      NARRATOR [continued]: The next step was to carry the case to the whole House, wheremembers on each side debated.Only a few of the Democratic minority memberscrossed over to vote with the Republican majority.So by a simple majority, President Clintonbecame the second President in history to be impeached.

    • 48:55

      NARRATOR [continued]: If history, process, precedent, and customwere in short supply in the impeachment proceedings,those for the trial in the Senate were also short.Only once had the Senate sat in judgment of a President.The Constitution gives little light, other thanto provide for the Chief Justice to preside,and the senators to hear the evidence and decide.

    • 49:20

      NARRATOR [continued]: Much guidance was provided by rules and procedures adoptedby the Senate after the Nixon years.Then, the Democratic majority determinedto have a set in place, just in case.Now, the Republicans were determined to follow them.The first step after notification of impeachment

    • 49:41

      NARRATOR [continued]: was to set a time for formal notification, whenthe House Managers, as they were called,would come to the senate and present the charges.For this step, the President Pro Tem of the senatewas in charge.He presided, until the trial began.At the appointed time, the designated members

    • 50:03

      NARRATOR [continued]: of the House Judiciary Committee acting as prosecutorsfiled in, and formally presented charges.Once the Senate was introduced to the Articles of Impeachmentor charges against the president,partisan bickering broke out.Quickly, the leadership of both partiescalled a closed door meeting to developa process acceptable to each.

    • 50:25

      NARRATOR [continued]: What resulted was a closely scripted processfor much of the trial.Chief Justice Rehnquist, who was to preside,was sworn in by the President Pro Tem.He too followed a prepared script,and relied on the parliamentarian when necessary.If the chief justice presided, clearly the majority leader,

    • 50:46

      NARRATOR [continued]: Trent Lott, was the floor manager for the proceedings.In a series of meetings, the leadershiphashed out the ground rules for this case,and set the process for future, similar situations.All meetings and all actions were either by consensus--as the congress calls it without objection--or decided by majority vote.

    • 51:07

      NARRATOR [continued]: Each side, House Managers and lawyers for the Presidenthad a chance to argue all the on record evidence.Equal time was given.Next, all of the senators were given a chanceto ask each side questions through the justice.He wrote the questions, and recognized the proper sideto answer.Neither side used questions to seek hard facts.

    • 51:31

      NARRATOR [continued]: The next step was to present formal rebuttal arguments.One final preliminary vote closed deliberations.As the Senate voted on each of the Articles of Impeachment,the vote fell shy of the needed 2/3.As in the Johnson trial, but by a much larger number,the President won the day.

    • 51:53

      NARRATOR [continued]: The Clinton case left the processwith some serious questions for the future.Given the highly partisan nature of the legislative branchand its been ability to agree on a definition of high crimesand misdemeanors, one can only wonderwhat action by a President, save wholesale bribery or treason,

    • 52:13

      NARRATOR [continued]: can ever lead to dismissal by impeachment.Will a popularly elected senate everchoose to try a president, when the oppositionparty has less than a 2/3 majority of the members?There was one consequence of this action.At midnight on June 30, 1999, the independent counsel lawcreated to remedy the problems concerned

    • 52:35

      NARRATOR [continued]: with the Nixon Watergate case was allowed quietly to expire.Even independent counsel Starr suggested that thiswas the best fate for it.Scholars will continue to study the process.And congress will institute new rules.Impeachment may never occur again,

    • 52:56

      NARRATOR [continued]: or it may come much sooner than anyone expects.But clearly, to the president's benefit,the current American public has spoken.It must be convinced of serious public wrongsto the detriment of the Republic.Lacking this, it wants none of the spectacleit saw in the latest impeachment and trial.

    • 53:20

      NARRATOR [continued]: The founding fathers were quite farsightedwhen they created the great documentwe call the Constitution.It is brief.It provides only an outline.It suggests, rather than dictates.It leads to each generation the task of filling outthe method and details.Still, it does render this extreme measure

    • 53:41

      NARRATOR [continued]: a time consuming and difficult procedure.Perhaps that is as it should be.For sure, this is another exampleof the enduring strength of our American Constitution.[MUSIC PLAYIGN]

Congress: How It Works

View Segments Segment :

Abstract

According to the United States Constitution, Congress possesses the power to make national laws. Congress has a bicameral structure made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, each of which have their own responsibilities.

Congress: How It Works

According to the United States Constitution, Congress possesses the power to make national laws. Congress has a bicameral structure made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, each of which have their own responsibilities.

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