- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

House Majority Leader Dick Armey says he expects a tough White House to become the Republican ace in the hole when dealing with Senate Democrats on tough issues, particularly with the economic-stimulus package.
"The president is a generous fellow, but he's also a man whose patience can be drawn very thin. In my estimation, he is feeling, 'Enough already. I have reached out, reached out, reached out, and you guys keep biting the hand that reaches for you.' So I think he's ready to draw some lines," the Texas Republican said.
In a wide-ranging breakfast meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday, Mr. Armey said bipartisanship, the watchword since Democrats gained control of the Senate in May and again after the September 11 attacks, should be a two-way street.
"Democrats do not see bipartisanship as a give-and-take proposition. They see it as a take-and-take proposition," Mr. Armey said. "We gave them, against our better judgment, concessions that have no growth potential. They gave us no votes.
"So we have to ask ourselves, what do we gain by trying reaching out to that side of the aisle when not only did we not get any votes, but we sat on the floor and listened to this asinine tirade about 'tax cuts for your rich friends' and class-warfare malarkey that's got most of us bored to tears already."
Now President Bush is seeing the same behavior, he said.
"He's beginning to understand how one-sided their interpretation of bipartisanship is," Mr. Armey said.
The energy and trade bills which, along with a stimulus package, are Congress' priorities for the rest of this year will give House Republicans and the president a chance to prove they have learned how to negotiate with Democrats, Mr. Armey said.
The trade bill, which would give the president "fast-track" authority to negotiate international trade deals without congressional amendments, is up for a vote in the House tomorrow.
An energy bill has passed in the House, but the Democratic leadership in the Senate has fought against debate this week.
Mr. Armey, an economist and professor before being elected to Congress in 1984, is a strong supporter of supply-side economics who believes that a "rising tide lifts all boats."
He said the Republican approach to the stimulus package is correct. The Republicans seek to encourage investment while the Democrats push for a mixture of pork and income transfers from the wealthy to the poor, he said.
Mr. Armey sees the larger partisan battle similarly: He says Democrats practice politics while Republicans promote good policy, and that the Democrat-controlled Senate is bottling up House legislation and straining relations between the chambers.
"The House and the Senate seem to have a totally different agenda. I would suggest the governing agenda in the Senate is not a policy agenda, but a political agenda," he said.
Mr. Armey blamed the problem on Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. He also said his heated exchange last week with fellow Republican Trent Lott, the Senate minority leader from Mississippi, was simply a part of hammering out an agreement.
"We're doing fine now. My wife keeps telling me the only reason she fights with me is she loves me so much," he said with a chuckle.
Mr. Armey praised House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri for his bipartisanship since September 11, even in the face of criticism from fellow Democrats.
But when the House is up for re-election next November, Mr. Armey said, he is confident of keeping Mr. Gephardt in the minority.
"I have absolutely zero doubt that we will hold the House. Now I think we'll gain a couple of seats," he said. "This isn't a confidence that is born out of a naive estimate of how much work we'll do. We will outwork the Democrats. We will out-support one another, relative to the Democrats."
Mr. Armey said House Republicans would welcome aid from the top but could go it alone if need be.
"We won't look to anybody. I laughed at [Sen. John] McCain [of Arizona] making the comment a couple months ago that we would need him to come campaign for us," Mr. Armey said. "Sorry, senator, we don't need you to come campaign. We take care of one another. We don't need anyone to pull our campaigns out of the fire. We look after one another."
In particular, he said, Republican representatives would help one another financially.
Last year, he said, the party's lawmakers raised nearly $25 million collectively to spend on House races beyond what they raised for their own races. Democrats, meanwhile, hoped to raise $5 million but fell short of that.

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