- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

The Bush transition team will meet with congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill today to plot strategy for the next session of Congress.
Transition staff said former Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney, the vice president-elect, and David J. Gribbin III, the transition's congressional liaison, will meet with House Republicans in the morning and attend the weekly Senate party lunch this afternoon.
Staffers said the men are unlikely to discuss the year-end budget negotiations, which Congress is trying to finish before Christmas.
"The vice president, at my request, is going to go up to Capitol Hill to further our discussions with the leadership and members of Congress because we've got a very strong agenda," Texas Gov. George W. Bush told reporters in Austin yesterday. "And it's an agenda that I strongly believe has put me in the position I'm in."
House Democrats, meanwhile, were planning to meet this morning with either Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who is Vice President Al Gore's running mate, or with Gore campaign manager William M. Daley.
Mr. Lieberman held a conference call with congressional Democrats yesterday afternoon, hours after a setback at the U.S. Supreme Court but before an even more stinging loss in a Florida circuit court, to keep them up to date on the court case in Florida.
Most congressional Democrats refused to return phone calls yesterday.
Mr. Bush yesterday said he had not been in touch with Democratic leaders. The campaign has avoided contacting Democrats, who have remained cautiously supportive of Mr. Gore, to avoid putting them in an awkward position, although Mr. Bush has promised to reach out once the election picture becomes more clear.
Mr. Bush said the meetings with Republicans today will build on discussions in Texas over the weekend with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois.
The men talked about ways to implement Mr. Bush's campaign promises given the narrow Republican majority in both chambers.
Mr. Bush yesterday put his agenda in context of signs that the economy is slowing, saying it is important to preserve the recent economic good times.
"There are some warning signs about our economy that I think we ought to take seriously," he said. "And I talked to the leadership about that at the ranch over the weekend. [The economic situation] argues for a tax-relief package. It's a tax-relief package that I campaigned on."
Mr. Bush proposed a $1.3 trillion across-the-board tax cut. Some Republicans had speculated that Mr. Bush might have to scale back his proposal given the close split on Capitol Hill, but his remarks yesterday suggest he remains committed to his plan.
Today's meeting with Republicans should feel like familiar turf for both Bush aides. Mr. Cheney represented Wyoming in Congress for five terms, until 1989.
Mr. Gribbin worked on the congressional staffs of both Mr. Cheney and former Sen. Daniel R. Coats of Indiana, and also served as Mr. Cheney's congressional liaison at the Defense Department in the Bush administration.
A Bush adviser said the meeting likely would be as much introductory as anything.
"It's a getting-to-know-you meeting," the aide said, asking not to be identified. "I think Cheney will make clear he is a man of the House and that the line of communications will be open."
The Bush campaign is being cautious about discussing transition issues while the results of the election remain in doubt. Mr. Bush was widely criticized in the days after the election for openly discussing his transition team while recounts were still under way in Florida.
But the transition is clearly well under way and took a major step forward this week, soliciting resumes from the public. In addition to the high-profile Cabinet posts, the new president will have to fill thousands of midlevel jobs.
Transition spokeswoman Juleanna Glover Weiss said Mr. Bush "has people all over the place collecting resumes."
She did not know how many resumes the organization has collected.
She declined to comment on whether the transition team about 25 people headed by Mr. Cheney already was conducting interviews and background checks on potential candidates. Nor did she say when Mr. Bush might begin openly discussing his likely Cabinet picks.
Mr. Bush yesterday kept alive speculation that he would name a Democrat to his Cabinet, given the close and bitterly contested presidential election.
"Well, I'm not ruling anything out," he said when reporters asked him about cross-party nominations. "And I know there's a lot of speculation going on, but I haven't made any decisions yet."
"And if I did," he kidded the reporters, "I probably wouldn't tell you."

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