Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Democrats Must Rethink Their Policies, Gephardt Says He Urges Unity and a Move to the Right

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Democrats Must Rethink Their Policies, Gephardt Says He Urges Unity and a Move to the Right

Article excerpt

House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt plunged from one campaign into another Wednesday, as he spent the afternoon and evening lining up support from House Democrats for the best job he can expect next year: minority leader.

The message he gave was that his colleagues must remain united, while moving to the right in some areas to respond to the voters' overwhelming rejection of Democratic incumbents Tuesday that gave Republicans control of the House.

"It does make us re-examine what we've advocated," Gephardt said of the devastating losses at the polls, losses that cost him a chance to replace Speaker Thomas Foley.

Gephardt, D-St. Louis County, said he thought that even though the House Democratic bloc will be more liberal next year, it will be more flexible.

"People will be more willing to come together in adversity," he said. "We have to stick together as a group."

With the loss of Foley and the retirement of Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, Gephardt is the lone incumbent Democratic leader in Congress.

He said members he talked to had varied reactions to the party's massacre.

"Some of them are in shock, they're bewildered, they just didn't believe it. They're trying to figure it out. Others are relieved" at their own survival, he said.

"They want us to get organized, focused and meet this challenge," he said.

Gephardt also commiserated by phone with President Bill Clinton, and agreed they would try to find common ground with the Republicans.

"He said he's really sorry and that he accepts responsibility for what happened," Gephardt said. "We've got to work with the Republican majority."

Gephardt said he told Clinton the two must start immediately to work on their legislative agenda and to examine that of the Republicans, beginning with that party's "Contract with America," a group of proposals that GOP candidates pledged to introduce as soon as the new Congress convenes next year. …

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