- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

Republican lawmakers predict that the House will remain the power base for President Bush and his legislative agenda in the Republican-led Congress that will be sworn in tomorrow.
Republicans won a two-seat majority in the Senate in November, and the president's close friend, Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, has ascended to the post of majority leader.
Nonetheless, precedent dictates that money bills originate in the House. Its rules make it easier for the majority party to get legislation passed than in the Senate, where the members can radically amend a bill on the floor and the minority party can hold up a bill endlessly through filibuster.
"Frist is going to have to make some deals with the Democrats," said Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel. "He has no margin for error."
"The House is easier for the administration to work with than the Senate, in spite of new leadership in the Senate," said Georgia Rep. John Linder. "The Senate is a cantankerous crowd, and because of Senate rules, Democrats can hold up things forever and they have."
Like other Republican lawmakers interviewed, Washington Rep. Jennifer Dunn said the tax-relief and spending package the president will outline in a speech in Chicago tomorrow represents the most important piece of business for the new Congress, as far as the White House and the Republican members are concerned.
"We have to turn things around," she said, referring to the lackluster economy that has prevailed since Mr. Bush took office.
"The most important thing to do is to finish the job on the 2001 tax cuts to make them permanent," Mr. Linder said. "Every time we tried to do that, Daschle stopped it in the Senate." Tom Daschle of South Dakota is the Democrats' leader in the Senate.
Mrs. Dunn, like other Republican legislators, said she received a telephone call last month from Bush White House strategist Karl Rove, who discussed what the White House hopes to achieve on economic legislation. Mr. Rove also listened to her recommendations, she said.
Lawmakers do not underestimate the value of Mr. Frist to the president.
"No question, Frist's relationship with the president should enhance the Republican agenda and the [presidents] power base in the senate," Mr. Hagel said. "But I don't think that will come at the expense of the relationship the president has developed with Hastert and the House Republicans," Mr. Hagel said, referring to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois.
Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who leads the Senate Policy Committee, said the power flow from the White House will depend on the issues.
"The House has to initiate some things, like money bills, and because the Republican leadership in the House can control things better than the Republican leadership in the Senate, it will be the first to act on the president's agenda in some circumstances," Mr. Kyl said.
California Rep. Ed Royce predicted that Mr. Frist, the Senate's only physician, would put Medicare reform, along with federal help for the elderly on prescription drugs, at the top of the agenda for Senate Republicans.
Politically, the White House regards action on prescription drugs a must but is counting on Mr. Frist and other Republicans to get something passed that doesn't look like a cave-in to Democrats.
"One other area he will take on is limiting damages in medical malpractice suits," Mr. Royce said. "We have seen doctors pull out of practices in about a dozen states because of abuse of damage awards. He will try to reform the tort system."
But he acknowledged that the Democrats, who are supported by the trial lawyers, can stop any such move in the Senate.
One dynamic won't change in the new Republican-led Congress.
"The Bush agenda ideas came from and will continue to come from the White House, through his strategists and his aides on the Hill," a senior Republican aide said, adding, in reference to the narrow Republican majorities in both houses, "Now that we have the White House and both houses of Congress, we need to get something done, but the sheer math requires that we move to the left."

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