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Chris Black: Dems don't plan to roll over for Bush

Chris Black
Chris Black  

CNN Congressional Correspondent Chris Black is reporting from Washington on President-elect George W. Bush's visit to the nation's capital.

Q: What was Bush hoping his trip to the Hill would accomplish?

BLACK: George W. Bush came to Capitol Hill Monday for the first time since the election to begin to develop the relationship he will need with congressional leaders if he expects to get anything through this Congress.

The Congress is narrowly divided along party lines. The Republicans barely have a majority in the House; the Senate is split 50-50.

On Monday, President-elect Bush spent two hours up here meeting with the bipartisan congressional leaders. He met with Republican leadership teams from the House and Senate. Then, he met individually with Dick Gephardt, the House Democratic leader from Missouri, and then with Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader from South Dakota.

The Republicans say they spent most of the discussion talking about tax cuts and energy policies, and things that the new administration should do to keep the economy going. There's a great deal of concern the economy may be softening.

Q: What are you hearing about the proposed Bush tax cut?

BLACK: Last week, House Speaker Dennis Hastert publicly suggested that Bush would be wise to break down his $1.3 trillion tax cut into bite-size pieces, making it all the better to sell to the American people. It would also make it easier to get through this divided Congress.

Bush came out afterwards and said the reason he believes he was elected president is because of the things he campaigned on, including his tax-cut proposal.

Democrats disagree with that analysis. They argue that the election was a tie and that Al Gore got more votes.

With that said both Gephardt and Daschle pledged to meet Bush halfway and talked about the importance of governing in the center and of staying away from the extreme sides of both parties.

Q: Was the president-elect well-received on the Hill?

BLACK: It was a very cordial atmosphere. These are professional politicians. All the meetings were described as very polite and very cordial. Bush does not know too many members of Congress very well. He knows his Texas pals, but he doesn't know Democrats like Gephardt and Daschle at all. And he doesn't know Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott or House Speaker Dennis Hastert very well, although Bush has met them before.

So, Bush is eager to deliver on the campaign pledge to change the tone in Washington and govern in a bipartisan way. He hopes to be able to replicate the relationship he had with Democrats in Texas.

People who have covered Congress for a long time don't think that will necessarily be the case. In fact, some have suggested that Bush might be a bit naive, because the Democrats in Washington are not the same as the Democrats he's accustomed to dealing with in Texas. They are a lot more liberal and a lot more partisan here.

Democrats in Washington are already talking about taking back the House in two years. So, there's no indication they are going to roll over for the Bush agenda.


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Monday, December 18, 2000

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