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Clinton and DeLay: The political 'odd couple'

The two legislators join forces for a common cause

By Judy Woodruff
CNN Washington Bureau

Sen. Hillary Clinton and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
Sen. Hillary Clinton and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton, Democrat of New York, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas: You couldn't find two more diametrically opposed legislators on Capitol Hill.

But the two legislators sat down with me on Wednesday to discuss an issue they share a deep concern over: improving the nation's foster care system.

Clinton and DeLay forged a partnership on foster care policy after meeting at a signing ceremony at the White House in the late 1990s. I spoke with the two before they hosted a screening of the movie "Antwone Fisher," an inspirational story of a foster care success story.

When I asked about their unlikely pairing, they praised each other for their commitment to the cause.

Both noted that the foster care issue isn't on the radar screen of many of their colleagues in Washington and that their work together, combined with greater public education. could raise the visibility of the issue.

"A lot of people just really don't want to talk about these issues. These children -- many of them have been severely abused and neglected -- have been taken from their home. They have issues they need to deal with and what happens to them is something that people really don't want to face, but we have to face it," DeLay said.

Clinton agreed that the issue has largely been "out of sight, out of mind."

"To me it's a failure every time we keep a child in foster care for that child's entire life. You know, there should be a decision made to either re-unite a child by helping a family get back on its feet and take care of its children or we should remove the child and try to find a good loving home with the foster care system but much more importantly, trying to find a permanent home, " Clinton said.

Talk turns to war

When the talk turned to the possible war against Iraq and the debate over its costs, the essential political divide between the two re-emerged: "This is where we probably get a divorce," DeLay said.

Clinton noted that she supported the president's decision to seek international support for military action. But she raised questions about the cost of war and commitment to post-war Iraq.

"I am worried that it seems inconsistent and unsustainable for the president to be asking for large tax cuts before we know what our continuing obligations are. I would like to see us take a deep breath, deal with Iraq....I don't believe that we really fully appreciate the cost that we may be embarking upon," Clinton said

But DeLay argued the opposite: tax cuts would help pay for a war against Iraq. "I believe strongly from my experience that if you give tax relief, it grows the economy and from the economy you raise the revenues to pay for the war... if you go to war, you go to win and you are going to have to pay for what it takes to win."

Two two members of Congress said they will continue pressing for more federal support for children in the foster care system. As for other issues on which the House majority leader and the senator might collaborate, Clinton acknowledged that DeLay could catch some grief in his home state.

"We are going to see how well we can actually accomplish what we set out to achieve here," she said. Clinton added, laughing, "You know, Tom would probably be in trouble in the place he comes from if he works with me too much. I don't want to get him in any trouble."

Judy Woodruff is CNN's prime anchor and senior correspondent. She also anchors "Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics," weekdays at 3:30 pm ET.

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