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Gingrich Lays Out Rigid GOP Agenda : Congress: As next House Speaker, Republican lawmaker says he will 'cooperate' with Clinton. But he vows no compromise on his 10-point plan.


WASHINGTON — Newt Gingrich, the firebrand destined to become the first Republican House Speaker in 40 years, challenged Washington's "counterculture" Friday to an open debate about America's future but warned that he will not give an inch when it comes to writing his conservative agenda into law.

"I am very prepared to cooperate with the Clinton Administration," said the Georgia congressman, who spearheaded the Republicans' drive to take control of the House in Tuesday's elections. But, he said flatly, "I am not prepared to compromise."

In his first speech since returning to the capital and in an interview with The Times, Gingrich made clear that he expects to preside over a freewheeling congressional debate about the "cultural meanings of being American" and said that he will do little to rein in independent-minded Republicans in House ranks.

And in a pointed warning to Democrats who might try to block his legislative plans, Gingrich predicted that American voters "will move toward a third party in a massive way" if partisan squabbling deadlocks Congress in the coming session.

A White House spokeswoman Friday once more promised cooperation with congressional Republicans but questioned whether the GOP can balance the budget, as promised, and fulfill its other campaign pledges.

"We're going to try to pass all 10 items, period," said Gingrich, unflinching as he waded through a throng of reporters. He was referring to his party's 10-point "contract with America," a blueprint for legislative change ranging from balancing the budget to reforming welfare to limiting politicians' terms in office. "And we're not going to compromise on that."

Mounting one of his harshest attacks on the liberal forces he said now dominate Washington, Gingrich declared: "We have to say to the counterculture: Nice try. You failed. You're wrong."

On his first day in the capital since Tuesday's elections, Gingrich greeted jubilant Republican staff members and began a round of meetings with other leaders, including outgoing Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.). He is expected to meet with Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and with President Clinton sometime in the next few days, according to staff aides.

An anticipated meeting between Dole and Gingrich on Friday did not take place. Senate and House Republicans have been at odds on many matters and the meeting with Dole, who is scheduled to become Senate majority leader in January, is likely to emphasize GOP unity.

Gingrich's meeting with Gephardt came a day after the Georgia Republican wrote to House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), who was voted out of office on Tuesday, asking him to ensure that no documents are destroyed during the transition to Republican control of the House. Gingrich denied Friday that he had meant to impute "sinister" motives to Democrats.

"When you take over an institution after 40 years, since you have no idea what the documents are, because they've all been kept by the Democrats and you've never had access to any of them, it seems to me reasonable and prudent to suggest that they simply be kept intact as they were on Election Day," Gingrich told reporters after the speech.

Gingrich's speech Friday, delivered to an audience of financial and investment professionals, represented his most forceful and comprehensive exposition to date of the philosophical grounds on which he will challenge the Democrats in the next two years. Speaking for more than 30 minutes without notes, the former history professor drew a sharp contrast between the principles he said underlie Republican priorities and those which in his view guide the Democrats' policy agenda.

Citing Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexis de Tocqueville as well as Alvin Toffler, author of the more recent "Future Shock," Gingrich said that the Republican victory Tuesday was a victory for "some fairly big ideas."

"We have to simply, calmly, methodically reassert American civilization. . . . And I believe that starts with the work ethic," Gingrich said.

By contrast, Gingrich painted those who have dominated Washington in recent years as embracing "counterculture values, bigger government, redistributionist economics and bureaucracies deciding how you should spend your money." He added pointedly: "They were on the losing end in virtually every part of the country."

Nor did Gingrich shrink from recent criticism that in the closing days of the campaign, he had used an apparently senseless crime--the case of a South Carolina mother charged with murdering her children--for partisan gain. On several occasions Friday, Gingrich linked crime to a breakdown of American society, blaming both on policies embraced by the Democrats.

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