- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2002

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says President Bush's agenda is an expansion of the Republican Party's Contract With America, but he wants the president to get tougher on spending.
The former Republican leader expressed some irritation yesterday over newspaper stories suggesting that Congress and Mr. Bush were beginning to undercut or dismantle the contract by restoring food-stamp benefits to legal immigrants, expanding farm subsidies and presiding over a return to deficit spending.
Mr. Gingrich countered that the president's agenda was aimed at broadening the core items in the Contract With America, which led to the Republican takeover of the House in 1994 after 40 years of Democratic control.
Mr. Gingrich said in an interview that the president was embracing and expanding the contract's chief items: welfare reform, increased defense spending, tax cuts and a more compassionate approach to social issues.
"First, we passed a welfare reform bill. And Bush is passing further welfare reform. Why doesn't that count as a continuation of the 1994 Republican Revolution?" Mr. Gingrich asked.
"Second, we campaigned for the first tax cut in 17 years, and then Bush passed a tax cut even larger than the one in the contract. Why doesn't that count as an expansion and deepening of the contract?
"Third, part of the contract was strengthening America's defense, including building an anti-missile system. We had the first increase in defense spending since 1983. Now Bush is pressing for further strengthening of our defenses and accelerating the anti-missile program."
Mr. Gingrich said many of the contract's proposals such as tax breaks for adoption and elderly dependent care, and enforcing child-support payments were outgrowths of ideas espoused in Marvin Olasky's books on "compassionate conservatism," a term Mr. Bush used in his campaign to define his domestic agenda.
"Rather than seeing the whole effort of Bush's faith-based help for the needy as new, why isn't that a continuation of what we talked about in the contract?" Mr. Gingrich asked.
An article in the Los Angeles Times this month pointed to recent moves to restore food-stamp benefits to immigrants, after restricting them in 1996, and expanding farm subsidies, after reducing them that same year, as signs of a rollback of Mr. Gingrich's reform movement.
But Mr. Gingrich said that ending food stamps for immigrants was not part of the contract's agenda, nor were the farm subsidy reforms that came later. "Those items were added by the writer of that piece to make a case that was vastly overexaggerated," he said.
"It is fair to say that the high-water mark of fiscal conservatism was 1995 to 1997," which led to the budget surpluses of the late 1990s. "Clearly, we were more fiscally conservative," he said.
"On the other hand, if we had [the terrorist attacks on] September 11 and a combination of war and recession, it would have been a lot different fiscal situation," Mr. Gingrich said.
Still, Mr. Gingrich said that "there is no question that we need a renewed emphasis on holding the line on spending, but I'd rather have Bush thinking those things through. My guess is he's going to veto some of those spending bills."
As for Mr. Bush's decision to sign the farm-subsidy bill, which many Republicans said was too costly, Mr. Gingrich said: "That was a unique case because you have a lot of Senate seats up in the farm states. There's an ideological side to this but also a practical side as well."


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