WASHINGTON Despite polls that show voters are tired of President Clinton’s legal travails, tickets to his impeachment trial appear to be a hot commodity for Marylanders.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Maryland, stopped accepting requests this week for tickets to the trial after her office got more than 200 calls from constituents in two days. That was enough to fill Mikulski’s reserved seats through the end of March.
“People are interested. I absolutely believe people are interested,” said a spokeswoman for Mikulski.
“It’s simply logistics,” she said. “In Maryland, it’s an easy trip for many people to make [to view the trial].”
Staffers for Western senators seemed to support that assertion Wednesday. Fewer than 20 people contacted Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office about passes because “they’re not close enough,” said receptionist Michelle Rounds.
About 30 Oklahomans called for tickets from Republican Sen. Don Nickles, who is dividing them among constituents, staff members and the state’s other members of Congress.
“There was no designation for how the passes would be used,” said Kelly Oliver, an intern in Nickles’ office. “Availability depends on who else wants to go.”
Each senator has been allotted three all-day passes to the trial for as long as it lasts.
The (Baltimore) Sun reported last week that Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Maryland, distributed his allotted passes to staff members rather than provide them to the public. Sarbanes’ office did not return repeated calls on the matter Wednesday.
The Senate rarely allots passes to its galleries, although it provides senators with special passes for swearing-in ceremonies. But the uniqueness of the trial prompted unusual measures, said Becky Daugherty, an executive assistant for Senate Sergeant-at- Arms James Ziglar.
“It was also done during the [1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew] Johnson … and that was the impetus for issuing these,” she said.
The Senate passes are good for a whole day of viewing. Those without passes can still glimpse the trial in 15-minute segments if they wait in line on a trial day. Daugherty said people can line up for those seats at the Law Library door on the Capitol’s east front.
Crowds in the Senate this year have not been larger than usual despite the impeachment proceedings, she said. Daugherty said she does not know whether to expect more people as the trial progresses. The House attracted more visitors than usual during its impeachment vote last month, according to the House sergeant-at-arms’ office. Consequently, visitors were ushered through the gallery in 30-minute increments rather than being allowed the usual unlimited time. -30-