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A Wary Collegiality In Congress

By Candy Crowley/CNN


WASHINGTON (Feb. 4) -- As its members wait to hear from President Bill Clinton tonight, the state of Congress is quiet; very quiet, and pretty collegial.

But listen to the leaders, and you get the feeling of lions circling each other.

"We need to see the specifics," says Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi. "In fact, the state of the union is where he [Clinton] just sort of paints the broad picture, but we will see the budget on Thursday and then we'll begin to know the details of whether he is really going to carry out what he has been talking about."

House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt said he thinks a bipartisan budget is possible.

"Our hope is that the Republicans will counter with what they think is a budget that they would support and then through the regular budget process, we can come to a bipartisan budget," Gephardt said.

Chastened by a fed-up electorate, Congress is still in the warm and cuddly mode. Bipartisanship is the mantra. Emphasize the positive is the name of the game. We are about to see if they can practice what they preach.


On Wednesday, the Senate begins debate on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, a top Republican priority the White House wants defeated.

On Thursday, the president officially unveils his budget. The broad goals are well-defined and no one is screaming yet, but the tough stuff is in the details

Can bipartisanship last through months of to-and-fro across the aisles? Maybe, if only because it has less to do with civility than survival.

Senate Democatic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota pointed out that cooperation is the only way to pass anything.

"No law will pass without Republican and Democratic support in Congress," Daschle said. "No law will pass without the signature of the president."

A Republican Congress that goes home empty-handed is an endangered one and a president with no second-term accomplishments won't get much ink in the history books.

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