Clinton Huddles With House Democrats
Closed-door meeting focuses on legislation, not Lewinsky, sources say
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Aug. 5) -- President Bill Clinton got a warm welcome on Capitol Hill Wednesday in a closed-door session with House Democrats that sources said focused on legislation, not the Monica Lewinsky investigation.
Rep. Kennelly speaks on behalf of House Democrats as Fazio and Gephardt look on
Clinton received a five-minute standing ovation when he arrived and lawmakers also applauded when he vowed not to get into a bidding war on tax cuts with Republicans this fall. Sources said Clinton reiterated his goal not to spend any of the projected federal budget surplus before lawmakers come up with a plan to shore up the Social Security retirement system.
Some congressional Democrats had been nervous about the prospect that Clinton might try to avoid testifying in Independent Counsel Ken Starr's inquiry into whether the president urged people to lie to cover up an alleged sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
But with Clinton's agreement to testify on Aug. 17, that concern has evaporated.
After the caucus meeting, Democratic leaders said the focus was
on Americans' everyday concerns, not the investigation.
"The president said he will testify fully and honestly and the caucus accepted that," said Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D-Conn.). "The same thing is happening all over the country. People are saying he's going to say what he's going to say fully and honestly, and we're happy. We'll wait for the 17th."
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said when he goes door to door in his Missouri district, people ask him when he is going to stop wasting tax dollars on endless investigations. Instead, his constituents want to talk about health care, education, Social Security, Medicare and the environment, Gephardt said.
"The Democratic Party is the only party in the country that's talking about their concerns, and trying to do something about them," Gephardt said. "I think Republicans will pay a dear price in November because they have not dealt with peoples' everyday kitchen-table problems, but rather have been interested in investigating everybody and everyone in an endless fashion."
Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.) said voters are more concerned with education, Social Security and health care, and the Democratic caucus meeting reflected that.
"We are not preoccupied on issues unrelated to what matters to Americans ... the kitchen-table issues that we hear about from our constituents," Fazio said. "The silence is deafening on the so-called Washington scandals."
On Tuesday night, Clinton also got a show of support from Democratic loyalists in the African-American community.
"We're not fair-weathered friends. We will be with you to the end," Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) told Clinton, who attended Waters' fund-raising reception of mostly black activists that raised $300,000 for House Democratic candidates.
Wednesday night, Clinton is expected to attend another Democratic fund-raising dinner, with a goal of $1 million.