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A House Judiciary Committee meeting erupted in a shouting match Tuesday as Democrats accused Republican leaders of plotting to spend $1.3 million to prepare for a possible impeachment inquiry.

"I must now come to the House to report that the Republican leadership is now planning to surreptitiously commence . . . an impeachment investigation without any notice to the Congress, to the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee or to the American people, without a vote from the House of Representatives," Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said later on the House floor.

Before abruptly leaving the committee room, the chairman, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., said plans for the money were no secret and that Republicans had kept Conyers' staff informed.

He said the money will be used for a general review of the Justice Department, which Congress has not done for 19 years.

Committee staff would be able to move into impeachment-related issues if needed, Hyde has said.

"We intend to look at the Justice Department from aardvark to Zimbabwe to find out all we can about it to make it cost effective and to exercise oversight in the fullest extent of the term," a testy Hyde told Conyers. "Your counsel has been notified all along about this."

"Well, what about me, sir?" demanded Conyers, senior Democrat on the committee.

"The hell with my counsel. You are the chairman, and I am the ranking member. I don't have to go see my counsel to find out what's on your mind," Conyers added.

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