Senators to Clinton: Delay State of Union address

Several Senators have called on President Clinton to postpone his State of the Union address, scheduled for Jan. 19, if the Senate is still in the midst of an impeachment trial.

"I think it would be unseemly and distracting for the president to be giving a State of the Union address to Congress while he was under trial in the Senate," said Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday. Sen. Bob Torricelli, D-N.J., agreed, saying, "It would be inappropriate to report on the State of the Union as long as the president is under impeachment."

Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX): "There's one other option," said Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, on the program. "The President can submit the State of the Union in writing."

On "Fox News Sunday," Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., said, "I think there could be some discomfort in a State of the Union address, but I think that we ought to understand that the people expect us to move forward on their agenda. And so I don't know what arrangement would be made for the State of the Union, whether it would be delivered in writing as it was for many, many years until this century, or whether the President actually gives it. But we cannot allow this proceeding to somehow set aside the agenda of the American people."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., appearing on CNN's "Lated Edition," said, "If it looks like it's going to be weeks and weeks and weeks of trial he might do it, but if you're very near the end of a trial I think he should postpone it."

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., disagreed with his colleagues, arguing the president should continue with his normal business. Specter, who spoke with reporters at the White House today following a healthcare-related event, also said the Senate proceeding must include witnesses to have the "aura" of an actual trial at which the witnesses themselves are evaluated.

White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart today said he knows of no plans to push the date of Clinton's address back. "I'm not aware of any discussions or requests from the [Senate] leadership to adjust that date," Lockhart said. "As of now, we're planning to give that speech Jan. 19."

Lockhart declined comment on the various plans being floated on how the Senate should proceed with an impeachment trial, saying only that discussions about the matter would continue this week. But he termed a suggestion on the Sunday talk shows that President Clinton appear during a trial "good Sunday morning theater."

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