September 27, 1995
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Even as Democrats and Republicans continue to exchange heated words on Medicare and Medicaid cuts, some GOP leaders are acting to lessen the level of rhetoric over their proposed changes in environmental law.
The nation's environmental legislation has been under its most aggressive attack in years as many Republicans, particularly those who took over the House, try to repeal government regulations they say are intrusive. In July, for example, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called the Environmental Protection Agency "the Gestapo of government," a reference to Nazi Germany's terroristic secret police. (128K AIFF sound or (128K WAV sound)
Throughout the year, many Republicans have been pushing legislation that would curtail the Clean Water Act, roll back air pollution enforcement, suspend the Endangered Species Act and scale back wetlands regulations. Republicans also have proposed a variety of other measures, including substantial cuts in EPA funding. (30K JPG graphic)
But now, prompted by indications voters think their anti- regulation zeal is anti-environment, some Republicans are urging caution. House speaker Newt Gingrich, who views himself as a nature lover, is warning his troops to pull back a bit. That's drawing ridicule from Democrats, including their environmental champion, Vice President Al Gore.(208K AIFF sound or (208K WAV sound)
Some Republicans who have warned of the nation's ingrained pro-environment attitude are welcoming the Gingrich comments. "With this boost that the speaker's given us," said Senator John Chafee, R-Rhode Island, "I think that when we're through we'll do all right in this Congress this time as far as the environment. I mean the main thing we don't want to do is go backwards."
But other Republicans are saying full speed ahead. Among them is Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, who switched from the Democrats to the Republicans this year in large part because of the GOP's tough environmental agenda. "The message is and should be that these laws and regulators are extreme, not the proposals we presented," he said.
Republicans have capitalized on a nationwide hostility toward regulation, but their campaign to cut back is running into its stiffest resistance when they venture into the great outdoors.
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