- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2000

The Democratic Party is trying to put on a show of unity this week in Los Angeles. However, the cheering in the convention hall will mask a different reality a party divided. On Capitol Hill, in a closed-door meeting of the Democrat Caucus last month, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt showed his ranks a clip of the movie, "The Gladiator" in which Maximus, the fictitious hero, implores his men to fight with him, saying, "Whatever comes out of these gates, we have a better chance of survival if we stick together." He may want to take his caucus on a field trip to the movie theater to see the whole picture, because Maximus and his loyal comrades did indeed unite to their victory. Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, have fallen apart and have split their votes on a number of key issues.

The Democrat leadership in the House and Senate hold news conferences and tell reporters that their troops are in lock-step on issues such as repealing the marriage tax penalty. But if one opens the Congressional Record and examines the vote tallies on this issue and others, it is apparent that Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle are a far cry from Russell Crowe.

Fifty-one Democrats in the House broke ranks with the minority leadership recently in order to get rid of the onerous, immoral marriage tax that currently socks 25 million married couples with an extra $1,400 burden each year for doing no more than saying, "I do."

Sixty-five Democrats in the House deserted their shepherds and voted to eliminate the death tax. They, like every Republican, realized that one should not meet the undertaker and the IRS agent all on the same day. And despite the veto threat by the Clinton-Gore administration of legislation that would change our pension laws and significantly increase the maximum contributions individuals may make to tax-favored retirement accounts, 182 Democrats cast "aye" votes to help pass this overwhelmingly popular initiative.

Republicans have been working hard on a broad set of priorities we call "Securing America's Future." We have worked on a bipartisan level in order to achieve the many goals we put forth as part of our overall agenda. By the margins of victory we have been witnessing, this plan is working.

It is amazing, however, that the Clinton-Gore administration and the Democrat leadership in the House and Senate have promised vetoes, walked off the House floor when we were discussing prescription drugs for senior citizens and filibustered important bills. In the past, there was always a conservative wing of Democrats from the South who many times sided with Republicans but the latest round of dissent has been very non-traditional. Democrats from all regions and from all ideologies have been voting for Republican amendments and bills because they know their constituency supports them. They know that their neighbors back home want tax relief and fairness, better retirement security and a future that is prosperous not burdensome.

Democrats are going to continue to hold their news conferences and use their stall tactics for the remainder of the 106th Congress. After all, they are in desperation. Their presidential candidate is down in every poll around, and they are in the minority in the House and the Senate. They are out of ideas, totally bankrupt of policy initiatives and are going for a "Hail Mary" pass that makes this quarterback laugh.

I hope the Democrat leadership and the Clinton-Gore administration rethink their obstructionist tactics as so many of their minions are voting against their positions. If the minority would work with us, instead of against us, we could accomplish so much more for the American people. In the meantime, Republicans will continue to work to secure America's future.

Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma is chairman of the House Republican Conference.

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