MONDAY. Day 41 of the House Republicans' 100-day Sherman-like
march toward their "Contract With America." But now, after several
quick victories, the opposition on Capitol Hill and in the White
House is stiffening.
The 10-point Contract, chockablock with promises on crime,
welfare, spending, defense, and other high-priority issues, was
supposed to be wrapped up by mid-April.
After passing the balanced- budget amendment and line-item veto,
Newt Gingrich & Co. now are rushing through legislation to tighten
down on violent criminals and welfare recipients. And they are
trying to make it harder for lawmakers to impose costly regulations
Yet as parts of the Contract shift to the Senate, the outlook
"The House is a steam vent for what the country is thinking,"
says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University in New
Jersey. "If you want to explore the American superego, go the
Senate, where nagging second thoughts are entertained.
"While House procedures have changed radically," he adds,
"Senate rules remain untouched. The glacial procedures of the
Senate have their place. True conservatives will take heart in the
Framers' intended design of the Senate."
Even so, the capital can feel power changing hands. Conservative
notions about government and society are taking form in law.
REGARDING welfare, House Republicans seek an end to a
60-year-old concept that government should assist those citizens
stuck in perpetual poverty. Regarding crime, they are
reinterpreting and proposing to restrict the rights of suspected
At a glance, it sometimes seems that the Constitution itself is
under fire. Supermajorities, at GOP insistence, now are needed in
the House to raise taxes. The proposed balanced-budget amendment
leaves a door open for courts to intervene in budgeting. The GOP's
proposed line-item veto would transfer some spending authority from
Congress to the White House.
The Fourth Amendment, which protects against "unreasonable
searches and seizures," sometimes seems under attack.
But scholars note that the simplest constitutional principles of
the bicameral system are prevailing. Each chamber may write its own
rules, and though the House is ramming legislation through, the
Senate is moving at its intended, unhurried pace.
This week will see substantial progress toward completion of key
planks in the Contract on the House side.
Welfare reform. Today the House will pass out of committee a
bill to tighten the rules for receiving government poverty