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House speaker-elect Livingston admits to extramarital affairs

Incoming House speaker Bob Livingston told House Republicans Thursday night that he has "on occasion strayed from my marriage." A spokesman said the Louisiana Republican has no plans to resign.Bob Livingston

In a statement issued on the eve of a historic impeachment debate involving the sexual conduct of President Clinton, Livingston said, "These indiscretions were not with employees on my staff, and I have never been asked to testify under oath about them."Members of the Republican rank-and-file emerged grim-faced from a closed-door caucus. One lawmaker said Livingston had received a round of applause from members. Livingston spokesman Mark Corallo said, "There has been no talk of resignation. The Republican Conference is solidly behind" the speaker nominee.

Livingston's statement claimed there were "individuals working together with the media" investigating his personal background to exploit during the impeachment proceedings.

"When I did an early interview with the media after announcing my candidacy for speaker, I told a reporter that I was running for speaker, not sainthood. There was a reason for those words," his statement said.

"Because of the tremendous trust and responsibility my colleagues have placed in me and because of forces outside of this institution seeking to influence the upcoming events and/or media coverage of these events, I have decided to inform my colleagues and my constituents that during my 33-year marriage to my wife, Bonnie, I have on occasion strayed from my marriage and doing so nearly cost me my marriage and family."

Republicans were quick to contrast Livingston's behavior with that of the president. "He is genuinely honest with us. He's telling the truth and the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue couldn't tell the truth if he had a gun to his head," said Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio.

"It reminds us all of all the human frailties," said Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark. "I don't think we should feel uncomfortable proceeding to the floor tomorrow. We have a duty to do under the Constitution."

Livingston, 55, was nominated without opposition to succeed Newt Gingrich as speaker on Nov. 18. Gingrich stunned the House with his resignation on Nov. 7.

Livingston has refused to preside over the impeachment debate about President Clinton's role in the Monica Lewinsky affair, but he was on the speaker's dais Thursday for House consideration of a resolution supporting U.S. troops carrying out airstrike against Iraq.

Livingston had wanted to assume the speaker's post with a minimum amount of controversy. Action against Iraq was unforeseen, but impeachment was becoming his problem after Gingrich, R-Ga., withdrew from the business of running the House after announcing his resignation.

Until last weekend, Livingston appeared to have succeeded in lying low. But his comments against a House vote on any resolution censuring Clinton -- he said such action would "violate the careful balance of separation of powers" -- landed him in the middle of the debate.

Livingston is scheduled to be elected speaker when the 106th Congress convenes Jan. 6.

Livingston's marital infidelities were first disclosed by a Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call.