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GOP SENATORS SEEK HEARINGS ON WHITEWATER

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Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee demanded a special meeting of the panel to pursue hearings or some other kind of investigation of President and Hillary Rodham Clinton's business dealings in Arkansas.

Sen. Donald Riegle, D-Mich., the committee chairman, rejected a similar request last month by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., the panel's ranking Republican.Riegle spokesman Rick Liblong had no immediate comment Friday on the latest request, in which D'Amato was joined by the seven other Republican members of the committee, including Utah Sen. Bob Bennett.

In a Jan. 12 letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, Riegle said he was concerned that a banking committee inquiry, "with the use of subpoenas to collect documents and compel testimony, could well jeopardize future prosecutions that may arise in this case."

Reno on Jan. 20 appointed Robert B. Fiske Jr., a former Republican U.S. attorney, as special counsel to investigate the Clintons' involvement in an Arkansas real estate company and its ties to the failed Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan. The Clintons invested in Whitewater in 1978.

Fiske will investigate, in part, whether depositors' money was diverted illegally from Madison to Whitewater Development Corp., a planned vacation home project in the Ozark Mountains.

But the Republican members of the banking committee, in a letter to Riegle Friday, said, "notwithstanding the recent appointment of a special counsel . . . the constitutional responsibility of Congress to consider the serious questions of public and regulatory policy raised by this controversy remains."

In a speech on the Senate floor, D'Amato argued that as special counsel, Fiske will limit his probe to potential criminal wrongdoing, while the banking committee can look into civil matters such as the roles of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and other government agencies.

Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., who is not a member of the banking committee, said the panel should hold a speedy hearing, "not to slander anyone, but just to find out the facts."

House Speaker Thomas S. Foley said Wednesday there is no need for congressional hearings on the matter. "There is no evidence of any credible nature pointing to misconduct by the president or the first lady. None. Zero. None," Foley, D-Wash., told reporters.

Foley's comments came a day after House Minority Leader Bob Michel, R-Ill., called for hearings.

Both Michel and Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., had earlier called for a special congressional committee to investigate the matter, but they backed off that request when it became clear the majority Democrats would not go along.