By Kayce T. Ataiyero and Virginia Mccord
WASHINGTON – Maryland congressmen voted along straight party lines Thursday to begin an open-ended impeachment inquiry of President Clinton.
All eight members of the state’s delegation said they support an inquiry into whether the president committed impeachable offenses in his attempts to conceal his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
But Democrats, who voted for a failed proposal to limit the scope and duration of the inquiry, said the public is fed up and wants a quick end to an already long ordeal.
“The constituents want it concluded. They don’t want it dragged out,” said Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore.
Maryland Republicans said they supported the open-ended inquiry because they want to get all the facts out. The Republican- backed inquiry approved Thursday will not be limited to evidence collected by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
“The quickest way to get it behind us is to go without a time constraint,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, who said a deadline for action would only prompt the White House to stall.
“It’s irresponsible not to broaden the scope,” said Bartlett, who has already called for impeachment.
Bartlett said that call is in line with the majority of his constituents. “One lady said, `Hang him,'” he said.
Maryland’s other Republicans said they have not made up their minds on the question of impeachment and that they only voted Thursday for a fuller look into the matter.
Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, said everyone is looking for some type of closure on the issue, but that can only be reached through an inquiry.
“You cannot even have a censure of a president without a formal inquiry,” Morella said. “But an inquiry does not mean there will be an impeachment.”
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said the gravity of the situation made the vote difficult. But he said the majority of his constituents appeared to support impeachment and that they are angry over the president’s misconduct.
“The anger comes with the use of deception with words,” he said. “That’s the most troubling part.”
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, said he voted against the resolution because residents in his district “support the president and would like to bring this to a conclusion and move on.”
Wynn said he has not made a decision on whether the president should be impeached because “we do not know whether these are impeachable offenses.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mitchellville, also voted against the far- reaching inquiry, citing the desire to get the scandal over with and move on to other issues.
He said the Republican resolution will “immobilize the country and the president and allow them to twist in the wind for another two years.”
Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Lutherville, voted for the open-ended inquiry and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, voted against it, according to their offices. Neither man was available for comment after the vote.
The House voted 258 to 176 to pass the Republican version of the impeachment inquiry resolution, with one congressman abstaining.