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GOP 'Backing Off' After President Clinton Threatens to Veto Tax Bill

Aired October 27, 2000 - 1:36 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We have our political correspondent Bill Schneider who has been listen to the president. We have here not so much the president calling it a do-nothing Congress as a do-nothing Republican leadership in the Congress.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, the president said there are bipartisan majorities for a lot of what he wants for hate crimes legislation, a minimum wage increase the way he wants it, campaign finance reform, a patient's bill of rights. And yet this leadership of Congress decided to pass a bill that he said was "unipartisan," namely, partisan, that it was not a bill that he could sign, unlike most of the other bills. He defended his position by saying look, I am bipartisan when they work with the Democrats and with the White House, but not in a case like this.

WATERS: What about Trent Lott's argument, that just wait until next year, we'll have a better atmosphere around here?

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's a way of saying we will have a new president. He expects that to be George W. Bush who does promise a more congenial atmosphere. Well, it certainly would be more congenial if the Congress and the president are both Republicans. At least we expect it to be, wouldn't be guaranteed.

But we were just told the Associated Press is reporting that Republican leadership is putting off a vote in the Senate on this tax bill to give bargainers more of a chance to strike the deal that the White House may be able to buy. It looks like the Republicans are backing off from the confrontation with the president, and they're not going to vote on this bill until next week, because I don't think they want a showdown. They don't see it in the interest of the Republicans in Congress.

WATERS: And why do you suppose they're backing off?

SCHNEIDER: Because they've had too many experiences of showdowns with President Clinton in which he's won. A week before the election, the stakes are very high. They are desperate to preserve their Republican majorities in Congress and I think they are a little fearful that they might lose them if -- the president might have the upper hand in this if there is another confrontation between the president and Congress over taxes and spending.

WATERS: What did you make of the president's response to the question, are you doing this to help out Al Gore?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he said that he's doing this to help out the American people. He said that he has proved time and again that he can work together with the Republican Congress. And, of course, the implication is so could Al Gore if the Congress produces legislation that is genuinely bipartisan.

His main point was this bill, the one that he's threatening to veto, is different from the other bills Congress has passed, bills like balanced budget and Welfare reform, which he signed in the past, other appropriations bills that he's signed just this year like veterans' affairs and international operations. He said, when they pass bills that are bipartisan, I will sign them. Implication: so will Gore. But when they pass, quote, bad bills that are wholly partisan, he wouldn't sign them and apparently neither would Al Gore.

WATERS: All right, Bill Schneider, CNN's senior political correspondent, thanks.

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