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CAMPAIGN 2000

House Needs Bipartisanship, Gephardt Says

November 04, 2000|DAVID ESPO | ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Dick Gephardt says he would run the House in a "more bipartisan way" if he becomes speaker next year and remember not to be "grandiose about what kind of mandate you have."

"You never have a mandate," the Missouri Democrat said in a recent interview in his Capitol office. "All you have is a small opportunity to try and do some practical things that people would like done."

While much would depend on the new president, he said a patients' bill of rights and prescription drug coverage under Medicare would be on the agenda. In addition, "If we were able to do some sensible step in campaign reform, if we were able to do more teachers and do the tax things for school buildings, do a minimum wage increase, do something on gun safety, we'd have a raging success on our hands."

Democrats need a gain of eight seats in Tuesday's elections to be certain of a majority that would install Gephardt, a 12-term lawmaker from St. Louis, in the speaker's chair.

Even if Democrats were to succeed, he said, the majority would be a small one.

"I think the place has to be run in a more bipartisan way, . . . and we're going to have to get Republicans votes for everything we do," Gephardt said.

"You can't just plop something down in front of them," he said, but instead must include them in deliberations.

As for his own party, Gephardt said he would be looking to bridge a historic divide between an all-powerful caucus on the one hand and power-seeking committee chairmen on the other.

As Democratic leader, he has met on a daily basis with a group of about 50 to 60 rank-and-file members. Those sessions would continue if Democrats were to gain a majority, he said.

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