Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gingrich Promises Fast Start First on Gop Agenda in House and Senate Is Overhaul of Congress

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gingrich Promises Fast Start First on Gop Agenda in House and Senate Is Overhaul of Congress

Article excerpt

On the eve of their takeover of Congress, Republicans promised rapid action Tuesday to shrink government and cut taxes. Leading GOP senators promised spending cuts deep enough to reduce the deficit as well as provide tax relief.

"We have a lot to look forward to tomorrow," said Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, due to ascend the rostrum as the first Republican House speaker in four decades.

First on the GOP agenda in both houses were proposals for congressional overhaul. Planning a faster start-up in the House than the Senate, Gingrich and his allies laid out a series of opening-day changes, including a requirement for a three-fifths majority to raise taxes, abolition of three House committees, and passage of legislation requiring Congress to obey the same laws it imposes on the rest of the country.

"You will actually see more reform in the first day of this next Congress than what I've seen in all the 10 years I've been here," said Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, incoming majority leader and the man responsible for planning passage of the Republicans' "Contract with America."

Democrats in both houses, cast into the minority for the first time in years, said they would push an amendment to the GOP package to ban lobbyists' gifts to lawmakers. More broadly, they pledged cooperation - up to a point. "Republicans have been given a chance, not a mandate," said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. He vowed to oppose any proposals that come from the "extreme right."

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the incoming Senate and a 230-204 edge in the new House, with one independent; it is the first time since the Eisenhower era that they have held control of both houses. And yet, with Bill Clinton in the White House, Democrats have more than enough votes to sustain vetoes.

From Gingrich's plans for a speaker's first-ever televised news conference to plans to have the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on hand for the enjoyment of lawmakers' children, there was little doubt that the first day of the 104th Congress would inaugurate profound change.

House Republicans discussed, then abandoned, a plan to have one Democrat, Rep. Sam Gejdenson of Connecticut, sworn in provisionally, pending an investigation into his contested, 21-vote election victory. Instead, they said they would permit him and two other Democrats, Charlie Rose of North Carolina and Jane Harman of California, to take their seats but would investigate the races if asked to do so.

More broadly, House Republicans looking for a fast start plan a heavy hearing schedule for the key elements of their Contract with America, including a balanced-budget amendment and a tax cut.

In the Senate, today's proceedings will be less revolutionary. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas described an opening day in which Democrats and Republicans would follow a courtly tradition of apportioning power on committees and time for future debates. …

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