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Cuomo Asks Congress to Help if Bush Aids Needy

February 05, 1989|WILLIAM J. EATON | Staff Writer

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo on Saturday urged the Democratic-controlled Congress to cooperate with President Bush if he advocates programs to aid the needy or disadvantaged.

But if Bush does not follow through on his promise of a "kinder, gentler nation," Cuomo added, the Democrats in the Senate and House must provide the programs and revenues the nation requires.

Cuomo, who is frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential contender, spoke at a meeting of House Democrats on the theme of "Reclaiming the Future."

Describes Break With Reagan

Bush already has made a "giant step forward" from former President Ronald Reagan's position by showing concern for the homeless and minority group members, the governor said.

"He has begun talking like one of us," Cuomo told fellow Democrats. "President Bush can't co-opt us--he can only confirm us. He has already rejected his predecessor's narrow view of life in America and for that we should be grateful."

If Bush supports adequate funds for homeless aid programs and welfare reform and scraps his no-new-taxes pledge after a year, Cuomo said, he would be hailed by Democrats as the "Great Cooperator," while right-wing members of Bush's Republican Party would denounce him as the "Great Collaborator," since they prefer confrontation with the Democratic Congress.

But if the new President fails to seek sufficient funds for important social programs and refuses to seek additional federal resources, the Democrats will have to fill the gap, Cuomo added.

Remarks Praised

House Democratic leaders hailed Cuomo's remarks, noting that Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) already has promised a bipartisan approach in foreign affairs.

Party Whip Tony Coelho (D-Merced) said: "Bush is opening up lines of communication and once you do that you're going to get cooperation and consensus . . . but the happier he makes the Democrats, the angrier the Republican right wing will be."

He added that "Bush gives us a big opportunity because he understands where the American people are--and that's where we have been."

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), a former presidential contender who may try for the White House again in 1992, gave a different view.

"I am from Missouri and you're going to have to show me that he (Bush) is going to back up his sentiments with deeds.

"I think he's going to take Ronald Reagan's program and warm it over. . . . If we get leftovers, we'll have to draw up our own blueprint."

Sees Different Approach

Coelho, however, said he felt that Bush would be far different from Reagan in his approach to the disadvantaged.

"It's the difference between Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan," Coelho said. "Barbara Bush wouldn't let him (the President) go to sleep at night if he didn't show concern. . . . I am not sure Nancy Reagan ever cared."

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