BY PAUL BARTON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WASHINGTON -- Rep. John Boehner said Thursday he is ready to vote to impeach President Clinton and said the mood in the House has shifted dramatically toward impeachment.
"This is a very sobering moment in our history," he said. "To be true to my oath of office, I have no choice but to vote to impeach the president of the United States."
Mr. Boehner, R-West Chester, became the first member of the Cincinnati-area delegation to officially declare he would vote for impeachment.
Mr. Boehner made the comment in his first interview since losing his House leadership position Nov. 18. Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma kept him from winning a third term as chairman of the House Republican Conference.
"It is clear to me the president has committed perjury," he said, referring to both Mr. Clinton's deposition in the Paula Jones case and his testimony before a federal grand jury.
When asked whether he thought a majority of the House was ready to vote likewise, Mr. Boehner said the numbers supporting impeachment were growing.
"I think the odds have improved dramatically, especially given the president's dancing on the head of a pin in response
to the (Judiciary) Committee's 81 questions," he said. The reference was to 81 questions that Rep. Henry Hyde, the committee chairman, put in writing concerning the Monica Lewinsky case.
Meanwhile, Mr. Boehner said he plans to use his departure from the House GOP leadership to become active on policy fronts and is likely to claim a subcommittee chairmanship in either the House Agriculture or Education and Workforce committees.
Many political analysts have predicted that he will find a way to play a prominent role among House Republicans even without his leadership job.
"For every door that closes, a new door opens," he said. "I do believe that I can continue to speak out for my constituents and provide leadership for my party."
Of his loss to Mr. Watts, Mr. Boehner said: "They (House Republicans) wanted change. I think that had the greatest impact on the race." Mr. Boehner agreed with speculation that it became tougher for him to win re-election after Rep. Richard Armey of Texas was re-elected House majority leader. The vote on Mr. Armey came immediately before the vote on the conference chairman.
That meant if House Republicans wanted additional new faces in the leadership, they would have to oust Mr. Boehner. "When Dick Armey was elected, it certainly made my race a lot harder," he said.
But Mr. Boehner said he had "no regrets" about serving in the leadership or the race against Mr. Watts and is looking forward to taking a break from the pressure-cooker atmosphere. Mr. Boehner has been chairman of the House Republican Conference since 1994. "I've slept better the last two weeks than I have in the past few years," he said. "It's been a lot of work and, frankly, it's been very stressful."
Mr. Boehner said it was too soon to know whether he would decide to run for a leadership post again in the future.
"This is a good opportunity for me to step back and take a look at where I want to go longer term."