Why The Center Can't Hold (TIME, 11/24/97)
Gephardt: Fast Track To Spotlight (CQ, 11/18/97)
Clinton, Congressional Democrats Set To Plot Strategy
By John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (Dec. 17) -- President Bill Clinton plans to meet with Democratic congressional leaders today to plot strategy for the 1998 legislative session, with an eye on helping his party improve its odds in the fall's midterm elections.
But the session promises to expose some of Clinton's differences with the congressional wing of his party, particularly House Democrats and their leader, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri. And while the Democrats meet at the White House this afternoon to plot strategy, Republican congressional leaders also are returning to Washington for a strategy session of their own.
House Democratic sources say Gephardt will press the president to commit to a major tax overhaul effort and inform the White House he is prepared to lead this effort if the administration will not join in. These sources say Gephardt and his top deputies are convinced the party needs to have a tax reform proposal to counter the promised GOP election-year focus on additional tax cuts and then a major overhaul of the tax code.
But Clinton is reluctant to embrace major tax changes so soon after striking a balanced budget agreement with Congress, a position he reiterated Tuesday afternoon at a White House news conference.
And, so far, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota is said by advisors to be closer to the White House position: favoring some targeted new tax breaks for child care, small business and perhaps farmers while painting Republican calls for deeper tax cuts and a scrapping of the IRS code as too radical and irresponsible to consider until the federal budget is actually in balance.
White House aides are furious at Gephardt for a recent speech in which he criticized the administration for worrying too much about fund-raising and suggested Clinton lacked any big, bold policy ideas. But aides to the two men in recent days have pledged to try to play down their differences and Daschle also has urged a Democratic detente.
On the Republican side, a leadership source said the meeting was part of an ongoing process to prioritize GOP policy proposals, and to discuss a strategy for dealing with Clinton in the election year.
This source said GOP strategists were trying to strike a balance between motivating the Republican base through challenges and confrontations with Clinton on some issues with the need to appeal to swing voters by registering some major accomplishments and proving they can get things done.
The timetable for the GOP tax debate is among the major issues to be worked out in the coming weeks.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich favors a new round of tax cuts this year and a debate heading into the 2000 presidential campaign cycle over scrapping the current tax code. But there are still polite but deep differences within the GOP ranks over what shape a proposed tax overhaul should take; a flat tax and a national sales tax are the leading Republican proposals.
In Other News:
Wednesday Dec. 17, 1997
Freeh Memo To Get An Airing On Capitol Hill
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