Clinton to reach out to Washington power brokers Most of president-elect's 2nd visit to be spent with members of Congress

December 07, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- President-elect Bill Clinton travels to Washington today for a visit intended to enhance his blossoming relationship with the capital's elected and unelected power brokers.

Unlike his first post-election visit to Washington last month, Mr. Clinton's schedule includes no neighborhood tours or other events with everyday people -- although if past practice is an indication, he'll find time to shake some hands and perhaps jog to a McDonald's.

Mr. Clinton's second trip is marked by insider symbolism, such as the dinner tonight arranged by Washington Post Co. Chairwoman Katherine Graham. Although her guest list hasn't been disclosed, it's sure to include some of the most socially and politically powerful people in Washington.

In another contrast with the first trip, Mr. Clinton and his wife, Hillary, will stay at the presidential guest quarters, Blair House. 00 Last time, they stayed at a hotel, a populist gesture. They are again refusing the offer of a military jet, but their charter plane will land at Andrews Air Force Base, which is more convenient than a commercial airport and is where the president flies from.

Almost all Mr. Clinton's time tomorrow will be spent with members of Congress, many of whom give him rave reviews for the way he has dealt with them. Mr. Clinton is stressing his desire to work with them, to the point where he has softened his campaign vow to seek line-item veto authority over legislation he doesn't like.

He is also reaching out to Capitol Hill in his search for Cabinet secretaries. He has settled on Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen for treasury secretary, and for head of the Office of Management and Budget he is leaning toward House Budget Committee Chairman Leon E. Panetta, D-Calif., or Alice M. Rivlin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

Also on Mr. Clinton's schedule tomorrow: meetings with Gannett newspaper executives, with current and former Supreme Court members and with the staff at his Washington transition office.

Democrats, who control the House and Senate, say they're ready to work with Mr. Clinton and break the gridlock that characterized the last two years of President Bush's administration.

Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, termed Mr. Clinton's first Capitol Hill visit a "masterful performance" and predicted an encore.

Mr. Clinton has conveyed that he has "an open-door policy," that he is a "hands-on executive," as he was in Arkansas, "where he worked very closely with the legislature," said Mr. Hoyer.

All of the House Democrats will meet as a group with Mr. Clinton. It will be the president-elect's first meeting with rank-and-file Democrats.

Mr. Clinton also will meet with congressional leaders again, including the powerful committee chiefs who can make or break a president's programs.

Mr. Hoyer said he had urged Clinton advisers and Vice President-elect Al Gore to choose Mr. Panetta for his Cabinet because of his expertise and ability to work with Congress. "I think he's the perfect bridge" between the administration and Capitol Hill, he said.

Maryland Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a member of the Ways and Means Committee through which many of Mr. Clinton's proposals must pass, isn't expecting a detailed discussion of programs at this early stage.

"What I think you're going to find is not going to be the specifics, it's going to be the blueprint" of his priorities: economic growth, deficit control and health care, Mr. Cardin said.

He praised Mr. Clinton's willingness to heed members' concerns. "He has been listening, he has been trying to absorb before he makes his statements."

One sign of cooperation is that Mr. Clinton's advisers already are working with Congress on health care legislation, which the BTC president-elect has promised to introduce in his first 100 days in office.

"We have started the dialogue with the Clinton people," said a Senate aide who asked not to be identified. "Most people don't think he's dragging his feet," the aide said.

Before arriving in Washington late today, Mr. Clinton will stop in -- Chicago for a meeting with students and teachers at Wilbur Wright Community College. Mr. Clinton stressed education in his campaign and career as governor.

Mrs. Clinton's Washington schedule includes the presentation of the Eleanor Roosevelt Living World Award to former first lady Rosalynn Carter at a congressional wives' "Peace on Earth Gala" tonight.

Mr. Clinton will return to Arkansas tomorrow night after attending a banquet put on by the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist party group he helped found and whose views he generally adopted during the campaign.

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