Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Congress Seeking Clear Statement Members Look to Clinton for a Detailed Blueprint on Which to Take Action

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Congress Seeking Clear Statement Members Look to Clinton for a Detailed Blueprint on Which to Take Action

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton was hard at work on his State of the Union message Monday, even as workers were tearing down the reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue from which he watched his inaugural parade two weeks ago.

In recent years, it has not taken much longer than that for Republicans to dismantle much of Clinton's annual agenda as well, in rhetoric if not in fact.

But the speech that the president delivers to Congress tonight is likely to be taken more seriously on both sides of the aisle. With no presidential election this year, and a Republican-controlled yet closely divided House and Senate, members are looking for Clinton to specify measures on which they can agree and act. "The highly political atmosphere of last year is not there this time," says Rep. James Talent, R-Mo. "I'm hopeful we can all find areas where we really can work together. . . . I hope he'll lay out a blueprint for doing that. It's time for some specifics." Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the speech would be a valuable way for Clinton to get off to a productive start in a two-year window of legislative opportunity before the next presidential election begins to loom and reduce his chances for success. "He has 24 months to make his mark," Durbin said. "I hope that Pre sident Clinton spells out his agenda for this Congress in specific terms. This is his best opportunity to kick it off with a clear statement of his goals." Durbin also echoed the bipartisan message that many members say they got from the November elections, and which Clinton will sound again. "The voters made it very clear they wanted divided government, but they wanted results," Durbin said. There's no secret about much of what the president will say tonight. He sounded many of the themes during his campaign, and the White House has been releasing his agenda in dribs and drabs during the last week. Education will be a major focus. Clinton is proposing tax credits and deductions to help pay for college tuition, with the goal of guaranteeing all Americans who want it at least two years of college. He'll also propose more federal spending for elementary and secondary schools for such things as standardized testing and increased access to computers. …

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