- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay said yesterday that while he welcomes the bipartisanship Democrats are promoting, it will be up to them to offer ways to get behind initiatives supported by President-elect George W. Bush.
"For the first time in 50 years, we have both houses and the White House. The difference now is that they won't have a Democratic president to veto this stuff," Mr. DeLay told The Washington Times. "We will have a president who will be supporting it and who will have worked with Democrats and Republicans to fashion something meaningful."
The Texas Republican's comments came after Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said bipartisanship "isn't an option any more, it's a requirement" and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri cajoled Republicans he called "unbending to compromise."
"Democrats are trying to dictate the Bush agenda by defining bipartisanship," Mr. DeLay said. "They're more or less saying it's the goal of a successful Bush administration, and of course Gephardt and Daschle are saying we have to buy into their partisanship then we'll be 'bipartisan.'
"They talked about a bipartisan effort, which we welcome, but bipartisanship doesn't mean they get to pick the agenda," he said.
Mr. DeLay said the minority leaders need merely practice what they have preached.
"I saw their press conference and they said they wanted to work with us and Bush in a bipartisan way. I welcome that. I hope they will start by giving George W. an opportunity to push his agenda. Hopefully, Daschle and Gephardt have changed their strategy of the last six years of obstructionism to one of cooperation," he said.
"We had a big bipartisan support for ending the marriage-penalty tax and repealing the death tax and passing a partial-birth-abortion ban. Bush said he wanted to pass those, so I would hope that Gephardt and Daschle would consider supporting bills."
Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and president of a political research firm in Arlington, said Mr. Daschle is pivotal to the success or failure of Mr. Bush's legislative agenda.
"The wild card in all of this is Tom Daschle," Mr. Luntz said. "Does Daschle want to compromise or does he want to obstruct?"
There is a growing consensus among congressional Republican leaders that snaring a series of quick victories will be the best thing they could do for Mr. Bush.
If Congress passes with bipartisan votes a number of incremental bills, Mr. Bush will secure his credentials as a national unifier, while gaining momentum for his more broad and bold initiatives, lawmakers and aides are saying.
"He comes out of the box hard. Scores quickly. Gets his approval ratings up and then he can start talking about the bigger issues, such as reforming Social Security," said one House Republican leadership aide.
The plan, for example, would mean setting aside, for now, a sweeping, across-the-board tax-cut plan and instead passing a repeal of the estate and gift tax or a package of tax cuts for married couples. Both measures passed with broad bipartisan votes earlier this year, but were vetoed by President Clinton in election-year wrangling.
A ban on partial-birth abortions is a third good candidate for quick consideration, said several Republican aides.
"Areas where there is some bipartisan agreement, that is where [Mr. Bush] should go," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.
The president-elect has said one of the first issues he would like to tackle is education, where, Mr. Hastert said, "there is a lot of room for bipartisan agreement."
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, agreed "we need to look for some bills early on that have broad bipartisan support."
Even Democrats say Mr. Bush could be fairly successful, if he picked the right issues.
"If President Bush put together a doable legislative agenda, he could accomplish a heck of a lot," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat.
But, Mr. Rangel said, beyond the Republicans' short list, the issues where Mr. Bush is likely to find success are Democratic issues.
A prescription-drug benefit under Medicare, a patients' bill of rights, education they are all on the agenda because of Democrats, Mr. Rangel said.
And if Congress is able to pass legislation in any of these areas, it will be Democrats who get credit.
"It's a win-win situation," Mr. Rangel said. "And we still whip their behinds in two years."

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