- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2001

The electoral and popular vote totals from the recent presidential election show that the American people delivered a clouded political message. However, the message of USA Today's map showing which candidate won each county was crystalline. The 2,454 counties carried by President Bush were red the 627 counties carried by former Vice President Gore were blue. Mr. Bush won in a geographic landslide indicated by a red map of America with widely scattered clusters of blue. Mr. Gore won the large urban areas, some suburbs and a few rural counties. Mr. Bush won everything else.

The liberals reign supreme in the cities. Conservatives thrive in rural, small town and suburban America. This axiom, for the most part, is mirrored in Congress. Positions on such issues as gun control, creating new government programs, and law enforcement reflect this division. For many, this appears to be a prescription for gridlock in Washington. I disagree; although Republicans and Democrats differ on many fundamental issues, I see many areas for mutual cooperation.

The problem in the last Congress with addressing many national concerns was not due to a lack of consensus in Congress, it was overcoming the obstacle in the White House. President Clinton thwarted many of these bipartisan initiatives opposing many bills that would have benefited the American people and strengthened our nation. Almost 25 million American couples are penalized by the federal tax code simply because they are married. The marriage tax penalty costs them an average of $1,400 a year. I believe that these families could use this money better than the Federal bureaucracy could use it for them. As a matter of fairness, we passed a bill to reduce this penalty by providing $90 billion in tax relief over 5 years.

Unfortunately, the president vetoed this effort to reduce this burden on married couples. However, 49 Democrats joined the Republicans in attempting to override this veto.

Similarly, 53 Democrats voted with us to override the veto of estate tax relief. The death tax can take as much as 55 percent of a person's assets after he or she dies. This means that instead of passing family businesses and farms down to the next generation many of these family enterprises must be sold to pay the taxes. In addition, 60 percent of small business owners reported that they would create new jobs if estate taxes were eliminated.

Although it is rarely noted in the news, large numbers of members from both parties agree on reforming a tax code that punishes marriage and hard work.

There was bipartisan cooperation on moral issues as well. Two years ago, 77 Democrats joined 209 Republicans in supporting a ban on partial-birth abortions. This gruesome procedure is only a means for ending the life of a child; there is no medical necessity for this procedure. Significant numbers on both sides of the aisle in the House voted to end this cruel practice by overriding Mr. Clinton's vetoes in 1996 and 1997.

This endeavor bogged down in the Senate and later the courts. Perhaps no issue demands Republican and Democrat cooperation more than our national security. Mr. Clinton consistently has proposed totally inadequate defense budgets. Since Republicans took control six years ago, Congress, with the support of Democrats, has increased defense spending by nearly $50 billion over the president's request. In addition, Mr. Clinton and the Democrat leadership strongly oppose creating a missile defense system to protect American from nuclear attack. However, 103 House Democrats crossed over to vote for the National Missile Defense Act of 1999.

Mr. Clinton stood in the way of providing tax relief to married couples and small businesses, blocked ending legal infanticide and thwarted steps for a more secure America. Large numbers of Democrats in Congress abandoned the president and their liberal leadership on these issues. The transition from the Clinton White House to the Bush White House will remove the impediment to achieving these goals.

Recently, even the Democrat leadership in Congress has joined in calling for major tax relief to revive the faltering economy. This does not mean an end to partisan bickering. Major philosophical differences still separate the two parties. But, a majority of Republicans and a significant minority of Democrats share the vision of empowering families and individuals through tax relief, putting an end to partial-birth abortion and restoring America's military might. The Republican Congress, with support from Democrats, has the opportunity to pass legislation improving the lives of all Americans. This would embody the bipartisan spirit the public desires.

Rep. Cliff Stearns is a Florida Republican.

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