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Baker Warmly Greeted in Visit to Capitol Hill

March 04, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Former Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. returned to Capitol Hill today as President Reagan's chief of staff, paying courtesy calls on leaders and trying, with his presence, to signal a more cordial tone between the White House and Congress.

"What I'm doing today is what I think I owe to the Congress and to the (House) Speaker and subsequently today to the Senate side--that is to come up and pay my respects and show also my cooperation with the Congress in trying to move the country on a sound set of public policies," Baker said as he posed for photographers with House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.).

A Former Leader

Baker, a former majority and minority leader of the Senate, also was meeting separately with House Republican leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois, Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.

Hours before Reagan was scheduled to deliver a nationally broadcast speech giving his side of the Iran- contra affair, Baker was setting an upbeat mood during his meetings with the legislators.

In turn, they expressed their pleasure at Baker's appointment as Reagan's chief assistant.

"We are delighted he's in this job," Wright said.

The visits also demonstrated the cordial manner with which legislators treat their former colleagues, a bond that Baker's predecessor, Donald T. Regan, was never able to establish.

'Friends a Long Time'

"I came to pay my respects to the Speaker. We've been friends a long time; we'll work together, I'm sure," said Baker, who did not seek reelection as the Republican senator from Tennessee in 1984 while he weighed a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988.

Wright replied, "Howard Baker and I used to work together in public works conference committees, you from the Senate and I the House, and we learned how to hammer it out on the anvils of mutual compromise."

Asked how Baker would differ from Regan as White House chief of staff, Wright said,

"The first thing is he's here, isn't he?" Wright said.

"And I feel at home," Baker said without missing a beat.

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