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This Day in Georgia History

February 12, 1999

Georgia Senators Voted on Impeachment

In Washington D.C., Georgia’s two U.S. senators voted in the impeachment trial of Pres. Bill Clinton. On Dec. 19, 1998, the House of Representatives had voted two impeachment charges against Pres. Clinton: (1) that he had given “perjurious, false and misleading testimony” to a federal grand jury, and (2) that he had conspired to “prevent, obstruct and impede the administration” of justice. Conviction and removal from office required a two-thirds vote by the Senate – something no knowledgeable observer predicted would occur on the day of the vote. Meeting in executive session, the Senate voted “not guilty” on the first count by a vote of 55-45, and tied on the second by a 50-50 vote. However, anything less than a two-thirds “guilty” vote amounted to an acquittal. As for Georgia’s two senators, on the first charge:

Sen. Paul Coverdell joined 44 other Republicans in voting “guilty”, and Sen. Max Cleland joined 44 other Democrats and 10 Republicans in voting “not guilty”On the second charge:

Sen. Coverdell joined 50 other Republicans in voting “guilty”, and Sen. Cleland joined 45 other Democrats and 5 Republicans in voting “not guilty”

The vote marked the second time in U.S. history that a sitting president had been impeached by the House and tried by the Senate. As with the case of Pres. Andrew Johnson in 1868, both presidents were acquitted (though Johnson escaped by a single vote). However, in 1868, Georgia was not represented in Congress because of Reconstruction. So, the Feb. 12, 1999 impeachment vote marked the first occasion in history for Georgia’s senators to participate in a trial to remove a president.