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Armey Spends Day In Retreat

House majority leader tries to put out two fires he fanned Tuesday

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, June 18) -- While House Majority Leader Dick Armey wished all a "good day" on Tuesday, his was anything but. And it meant that he spent today backtracking furiously.

Armey insisted Tuesday night and today that he continues to work well with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and that he is still on board for passage of the budget worked out between Congress and the White House .

While meeting with reporters Tuesday, Armey sidestepped many opportunities to express his support for the speaker. Asked point-blank, "Do you think the speaker is doing an effective job?" Armey walked away, saying, "You all have a good day."

And Armey also seemed to be tiptoeing away from the balanced-budget package worked out between Congress and the White House, saying, "The basic rule in this town is that if you're not in the room and you don't make the agreement, you're not bound by it. You just have to understand you're not going to get acquiescent, conforming behavior to everything that two or three or four ... big shots think they agreed to."


Top House Republican Gingrich has placed number-two House Republican Armey in charge of the day-to-day running of the House, but relations between the two have frequently been strained. Armey is much less likely than Gingrich to compromise on the way to an agreement; Gingrich's more accommodating style seems to irritate Armey.

But Republicans like to keep up a unified front, which meant Armey spent a good deal of Tuesday night and today backtracking.

On Gingrich, last night, he said, "It is not my habit to answer questions posed to me when I am halfway out the door with my back turned ... The speaker and I continue to work as effectively as we have for the last four years."

On the budget, today, he said, "We are complying with the budget agreement. And there is no doubt that our final product will be in compliance with the budget agreement, and the president ought to accept that compliance and sign it into law as the completion of the agreement. So, insofar as you misunderstood me yesterday, I hope that this clarifies it."

House Republicans focused their attentions Tuesday on an afternoon meeting that had the makings of a revolt; an anonymous letter on House GOP stationery called for a "vote of confidence" in the leadership, Gingrich in particular. The meeting ended up fizzling, with few Republicans attending and little getting done.

Gingrich, appearing before reporters with Armey today, politely ignored Armey's comments, instead taking aim at the media for Tuesday's tempest. "As I told you all day yesterday, your coverage was nonsense," Gingrich said. "The fact was I was going to be speaker. This was the seventh or eighth time the press has run up this hill and the seventh or eighth time I was speaker when I went down the hill." Actually, the speaker gave no interviews Tuesday.

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