Subject: Gingrich On Taxes, Internet, Whitewater Probe
House Speaker Newt Gingrich says that although he is realistic that the president won't sign the exact budget and tax bills the House passed this week, he is confident that "the heart of the tax package that we ran in in 1994 is going to be signed into law by President Clinton."
Appearing on CNN's "Evans and Novak," Gingrich said, "I do believe he's going to sign a $500-per-child tax credit, I do believe he's going to sign educational tax breaks to help families going to vocational and technical school and college, I do believe he's going to sign a cut in the capital gains tax and I do believe he will sign a cut in the death tax which would help family, farms and small buinesses."
When asked about the items where there is a clear discrepancy between the president and Congress, Gingrich seemed to leave room for negotiation.
"I think when we sit down with the president, he's going to have some things he wants, we're going to have some things we want," the Georgia Republican said.
On indexing for capital gains, which the president last week told the Wall Street Journal he opposed, Gingrich said he refused to "draw a line in the sand and invite a veto."
Said Gingrich, "I want to get this bill signed, so for the first time in 16 years, the American people have a tax cut, but we're not going to give it up flippantly, we're going to work to keep it. I think the president has to look at what does he want. He's not going to get everything he wants; this is not a one-way street."
On the issue of Medicare, the speaker said his decision on whether or not to go along with the Senate bill, which increases the eligibility age from 65 to 67 over time and boosts premiums for more affluent seniors, will depend on the president's reaction.
"If the president is willing to sign a bill that has those reforms, which everybody agrees intellectually are needed in the long run, no one denies that we have to have some pretty basic reforms as people live longer and baby boomers head towards retirement, if he's willing to work with us, I think that we can get something done, but frankly he can kill that by simply indicating he won't support it," Gingrich said. "It's too difficult to carry reforms of that size against the president, so he has a unique burden of having to decide whether or not he can accept that."
Gingrich was also noncommittal on the Senate's provision for a cigarette tax increase, which was not in the House bill.
"I wouldn't automatically rule it out," he said. "I think again we ought to wait and see. I think this whole area of tobacco negotiations is murky. They've apparently recommended a 35-cent-a-pack tax in the tobacco negotiations, it's being looked at now and the question is whether we can get to any of that during these negotiations."
Gingrich once again defended himself against reports last week that many rank-and-file Republicans were unhappy with his leadership, and he said he does not plan to step down from the speaker's chair.
"We just had the greatest Republican legislative success in modern times, the best Republican week in modern times," he said. "I think the fact is if the people of the sixth district of Georgia re-elect me, I believe the House will re-elect me as speaker and the first time since the 1920's we'll be in our third term as a majority, and instead of looking for the three people out of 228 [Republican members] who want to gripe, you ought to talk to the 200 who think being in the majority is a pretty good deal."
The speaker also commented on a few of the Supreme Court cases that came down this week.
On the Brady handgun law, Gingrich said, "I think we prefer to go to instant check on an immediate basis and try to accelerate implementing instant checks so that you could literally check by thumb print whether there was a convicted felon with dangerous behavior or dangerous mental behavior. Instant check is a much better system than the Brady process."
On the Supreme Court striking down a law barring "indecent" material on the Internet where minors can see it, Gingrich said, "I think we're better to have a crash program to develop an inexpensive software package for parents to allow them to monitor the sets for their kids. It is doable and the technology is available and it's legitimate for parents as parents to monitor what their children see on the Internet."
On the line-item veto, Gingrich is happy with the court's decision not to call it unconstitutional, saying he still supports it as a "a useful tool to cut out pork."
Gingrich also said that if Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr thinks that he can get valuable information from women with whom the president may have had relationships or from state troopers, he has a right to question them.
"As a citizen, my observation is if a independent counsel believes that by gathering evidence from people who were in casual social circumstances might unlock whether or not there was a criminal conspiracy, I think he should interview anybody he thinks is an appropriate witness," Gingrich said.
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