The first Republican Congress in 40 years had a string of successes and “one fiasco over the government shutdown,” Rep. George Nethercutt said Monday after returning to Spokane to campaign for re-election.
The list of successes includes reforms of welfare and immigration laws, a major overhaul of federal farm programs and budget savings of more than $53 million, the freshman Republican said.
He also counted votes on term limits and a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget. Neither gained final passage, “but we took them up for the first time ever.”
The House adjourned over the weekend after passing a massive federal spending bill. Negotiations over that budget proposal were in marked contrast to the Republicans’ first year in control of Congress when they deadlocked with President Clinton over large portions of the federal budget.
That stalemate led to two partial shutdowns of the federal government. Major sticking points were the schedule for eliminating the deficit by the year 2002 and which agency’s estimates were the best for reaching a zero deficit.
“That was a black mark for everyone,” Nethercutt said in an interview with The Spokesman-Review. However, he laid most of the blame on Clinton for “breaking his word” during budget negotiations.
But Republicans also learned something about budget discussions, he said.
“It’s a flexible system that demands some level of compromise, which works better than always confrontation,” he said.
This year, the budget was passed with a series of compromises, but efforts remain on schedule to obtain a balanced budget by the year 2002, he said.
The Republicans’ unsuccessful proposal to revise Medicare is being used as a bludgeon against Nethercutt as he seeks re-election.
The AFL-CIO and other groups are charging in a series of television commercials that the proposal amounted to cuts in Medicare. Nethercutt and other Republicans counter that they were trying only to slow the growth of Medicare spending while enacting other reforms that would make the system solvent.
The general public does not fully understand the problems with Medicare, he said, and easily can be misled by the commercials. But he defended the decision to limit hearings on the GOP’s proposal, which was offered as part of a spending bill.
“We would have had the same public relations problems with more hearings,” he said.
Two years ago, Nethercutt was the beneficiary of negative ads run by independent groups against his opponent, 30-year-incumbent Tom Foley. He asked the groups supporting gun rights and term limits to stop, but they continued to run the ads anyway.
This year, as the incumbent, Nethercutt worries about a barrage of ads that “set people in Congress up to ridicule.
“Politics is a rough game. But these commercials do nothing to solve the Medicare problem or any other issue of the day.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: NETHERCUTT LIVE You can ask Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Spokane, questions during a live interview on KPBX radio at noon today. His opponent, Democrat Judy Olson, will take part in a similar interview with the station’s news director, Doug Nadvornick, at noon Thursday.