House Speaker Newt Gingrich sent a conciliatory message to the White House on Sunday, saying President Clinton is a man he can work with who is "without question" more in touch with the American people than congressional Democrats.
But Gingrich, R-Ga., and Democratic leaders who appeared on the Sunday TV news programs, also were in agreement that the next phase of the 104th Congress will be just as contentious as the first 100 days.Gingrich suggested Republicans might attach "Contract With America" measures onto budgetary bills that would make presidential vetoes unpalatable.
"We are not just going to get rolled over by the president," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"We're not going to let them roll that back," Vice President Al Gore said minutes earlier on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Republican attempts to reverse what Clinton accomplished during his first two years in office.
Gingrich expressed sympathy for Clinton, saying he was being put in a "difficult position" by congressional Democrats pressing him to veto bills coming out of the GOP-led Congress.
"He doesn't want to automatically be forced into a veto. I respect that," Gingrich said. "I think you will see Sen. (Bob) Dole and I work with the president when we can find common ground. We'll oppose him when we think he's wrong, and we expect him to do the same. We don't think he's going to be a patsy and automatically sign things we send to him."
Asked if Clinton was more in touch with the American people than Democratic lawmakers, Gingrich responded, "Without question." He said he had been "truly surprised and frankly saddened" by the bitter opposition of some Democrats to the Republican agenda.
In a speech in Dallas on Friday, Clinton said he hoped to work amicably with Republicans in Congress, but also listed GOP bills, including those on crime and regulatory reform, he would veto if the House-passed versions were approved by the Senate as well.
"These first 100 days have been for Newt Gingrich and for the Republicans," White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley." "The second 100 days ought to be for the rest of America."
Gingrich left open the possibility that Republicans would overcome presidential vetoes by attaching welfare reform and other bills to measures to raise the national debt ceiling and other budgetary items that Clinton couldn't veto without causing havoc to the government.
"We may well do it that way," Gingrich said, adding that such tactics were still five or six months down the road and he hadn't discussed the idea yet with Dole, R-Kan., the Senate majority leader.
Senate minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., told ABC there was a "real strong likelihood" of such a "train wreck" strategy.
"That's high-stakes politics and it's legislating at its worst," Daschle said. "It's irresponsible and I would think the Republicans ought to be held responsible if it does happen."
Gore said entitlement programs must be reduced as part of spending cutbacks, but that said Republican plans to cut the level of growth in Medicare and Medicaid spending were unwise outside the context of health care reform.