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Detroit Free Press | November 10, 2006

If U.S. Rep. John Conyers is bluffing, it's a good one.

The Detroit Democrat, who as ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee wrote a bill to consider impeachment hearings against President George W. Bush, now says he won't push for that if he gets the committee chairmanship.

The soon-to-be House speaker and fellow Democrat, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, has said repeatedly that no impeachment hearings will be held.

"I am in total agreement with her on this issue," Conyers said in a statement Thursday. "Impeachment is off the table." He was not available for further comment.

But will Conyers follow the rules once he gets the power to subpoena witnesses? Some longtime watchers say they believe he will.

"He's been around a long time, and I think Mr. Conyers would like to stay around for a longer time," said David Arthur, who worked for Conyers as a legislative aide from 1995 to 1997. Arthur now is a lobbyist with the Dykema Gossett law firm in Washington, D.C.

Some Democrats who won by slim margins Tuesday could lose in 2008 if Conyers holds unpopular impeachment hearings, Arthur said. And if that happened, he said, "Mr. Conyers would lose his gavel as quickly as he got it."

Even without impeachment, Conyers is expected to investigate the Bush administration aggressively, said Ron Walters, a political science professor at the University of Maryland.

In his statement, Conyers said election reform would be a priority for him. He'd likely focus on 2004 presidential election irregularities in Ohio and on Bush's domestic spying program.

Conyers is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and would be the first African American to chair the House Judiciary Committee.

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