WASHINGTON — Republicans pressed ahead Wednesday for unlimited Senate Whitewater hearings, but Democrats temporarily blocked them by refusing to show up for a meeting.
Overriding a Democratic proposal to limit extension of the Senate inquiry to five weeks, the Banking Committee voted, 9 to 7, to continue the probe indefinitely.
Democrats then boycotted a meeting of the Rules Committee, leaving Republicans one short of a quorum, with Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) campaigning in South Carolina.
"It is now obvious that the Democrats are afraid of letting the American people find out the facts about Whitewater," said Whitewater Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.).
With authorization for the Whitewater probe about to expire, Republicans want to take the resolution to the full Senate today. Democrats have threatened a filibuster. With a Republican-Democratic split of 53 to 47, Democrats could block debate on the resolution if no one breaks ranks.
D'Amato suggested the panel's work might be completed six to eight weeks after the end of a Whitewater criminal trial of Clinton's former Arkansas business partners, James B. and Susan McDougal. The trial starts March 4, and some witnesses are unavailable to the Senate because of it, D'Amato said.