No gridlock, vow Clinton, Hill leaders

November 17, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- President-elect Bill Clinton and Democratic congressional leaders declared an end to governmental gridlock yesterday, promising swift action on the nation's problems after Mr. Clinton takes office Jan. 20.

Mr. Clinton hailed a "new era of cooperation and action in our nation's capital," while House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt proclaimed, "Gridlock is over, and cooperation and teamwork have begun."

They spoke at a news conference also attended by Vice President-elect Al Gore, House Speaker Thomas S. Foley and Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell. They had met Sunday night at the Governor's Mansion to discuss goals and lay the groundwork for Mr. Clinton's first post-election meetings in Washington tomorrow and Thursday, during which he'll speak with President Bush and members of Congress.

Their upbeat comments were intended to reassure voters that the governmental paralysis of the past two years was over now that Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House.

"I don't want a continuation of the Cold War between the Congress and the White House," Mr. Clinton said. "Pennsylvania Avenue will run both ways again."

"We're very much aware that the American people in the last election, without regard to their voter preference, spoke in a very loud and unmistakable voice," Mr. Clinton added. "They want action, not words. They want responsibility and not blame."

The president-elect offered evidence that he and Congress will work together by considering a compromise on the line-item veto, which would have given Mr. Clinton the power to cut certain items in a spending bill without vetoing the entire measure.

During the campaign, Mr. Clinton said he would seek the line-item veto to control spending. But yesterday he expressed interest in a watered-down version of the veto proposed by Mr. Foley.

Under the compromise, Congress could vote to override a veto of a spending item in a bill by a simple majority of the House and Senate instead of the two-thirds majority of both houses that is required to override normal vetoes.

As optimistic as he was about relations with Congress, Mr. Clinton remained pessimistic about the economy.

"Obviously I want to wait and see what each month brings," he said. "But there is no evidence that there is a long-term strengthening of the manufacturing structure of our country, and I can't yet tell that we've had enough evidence that there's any significant improvement in consumer confidence."

He termed the deficit a "terrible problem" and said, "We're attempting to find out exactly what the dimensions of it are," a reference to what he said was the Bush administration's promise to give his aides access to economic information kept by the Office of Management and Budget.

The deficit was $290 billion for the budget year that ended Sept. 30. The Congressional Budget Office's most recent projection for the new budget year is $296 billion, although that could increase sharply depending on the economy and the amount of funds needed to bail out bankrupt savings and loans.

Despite concern about the deficit, Mr. Clinton said he still "would like" to provide a middle-class tax cut he pledged during the campaign.

"And I think the American people will be much more willing to accept the argument that all have to sacrifice and contribute over the long run if they believe we're starting from a fair tax system, and I don't believe we are today."

Mr. Clinton told reporters he also is sticking to his controversial commitment to promptly end the ban on gay people serving in the military, though he said he hasn't decided on a timetable and would meet with military leaders to discuss their concerns.

"I want to firmly proceed and I want to do it after consulting with military leaders," he said. "I've made no decision about what structure to follow."

Asked about the opposition to lifting the ban expressed by his political ally, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn of Georgia, Mr. Clinton challenged the privacy issue raised by non-homosexuals.

"One, we know there have always been gays in the military, and we know, according to the study which was released near the end of the campaign, it cost the United States taxpayers about $500 million to get fewer than 17,000 gays out of the military over the last 10 years," he said.

Mr. Clinton, who seemed sure of himself and his answers, also fielded questions about health care reform and his wife, Hillary, who attended the Sunday night meeting but otherwise has kept a low profile lately.

But Mr. Clinton and the Democratic leaders sought to downplay expectations that all the measures they've talked about will be passed in his first 100 days in office -- a period which he said during his campaign would be the "most explosive" in history in terms of action.

He said, for example, that while he promised to present a health care plan in the first 100 days, "I never said that I would be able to pass a health care plan" in that time.

"That's the most complex of all the issues with which we must deal," he said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.