- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001

The Republican-led House, supposedly stronger than the Senate for advancing President Bushs legislative agenda, is showing some chinks in its armor.
In a single day last week, Republican-majority House committees voted to overturn Mr. Bushs ban on U.S.-funded family planning overseas and killed his proposal for private school vouchers.
The House International Relations Committee also voted to keep in place the annual U.S. review of arms sales for Taiwan, rejecting Mr. Bushs decision to conduct such reviews as needed.
A day after those committee votes, House Republicans lost two pages of the federal budget agreement, postponing final passage until this week and giving Democrats more time to take potshots at the presidents spending priorities and $1.35 trillion tax cut.
The week served as a reminder that, although the Senate is evenly divided, Republicans hold only a 10-seat advantage in the House, and Mr. Bush cannot always count on the chamber for the same party unity that made his tax cuts possible.
"Its a body of 435, and hes got a five-vote margin of error," said Stephen Hess, a political analyst for the Brookings Institution. "Anything and everything is tough to come by."
House Republican leaders and White House officials said the setbacks were expected. Republican lawmakers say they will reverse the vote on the so-called "Mexico City" provision for overseas abortions this week during debate on the House floor.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay said last week that the House is still the bedrock of support for Mr. Bushs policies.
"The House has led the way for the last six years to hold spending down," Mr. DeLay said. "The House has passed a tax cut out of the House every year for the six years that weve been in the majority. And as long as we stay in the majority, well continue to pass tax cuts out of the House of Representatives.
"We have a president that is demanding fiscal discipline, that is demanding that we … allow the American family to keep more of what its earned," Mr. DeLay said. "And the best part about it is hes winning. This is his budget. Ive been here 16 years. I think this is the first time a presidents budget has actually been picked up by the House of Representatives and passed. So it is a new time, and its a new deal."
But the votes last week also could indicate difficulties ahead for the more contentious parts of the presidents agenda, such as his proposal to open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil and gas exploration.
Mr. Hess said it proves that the White House has used a sensible strategy of getting Congress to address the administrations highest priorities, such as tax cuts and increased education spending, early in the session.
"It could only get worse," Mr. Hess said. "It shows us that the White House is going to have to fight and deal for everything it wants. They understand it and have been forewarned that the problems are not just in the opposition party."
On the family planning vote, for example, the tide turned against Mr. Bush temporarily when three Republicans on the International Relations Committee sided with all the panels Democrats.
The three — Reps. Amo Houghton and Benjamin A. Gilman of New York, and Jim Leach of Iowa — are known for breaking with conservatives.
The House Education and the Workforce Committee, which dealt the final blow to the administrations school voucher proposal, includes middle-of-the-road Republicans such as Reps. Marge Roukema of New Jersey, Michael N. Castle of Delaware, James C. Greenwood of Pennsylvania and Fred Upton of Michigan.
Even so, Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said the House "has made significant progress on every aspect of the Bush agenda during the last 100 days."
"People are quick to note that the president didnt get 100 percent of everything that he requested in the budget that will pass in the House and Senate," said Rep. John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Republican. "But it still reflects his priorities and our shared priorities as Congress."
Rep. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican and a close ally of Mr. Bush, said Congress also has approved reducing the national debt by $2 trillion over 10 years, which he called "unprecedented."


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