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Democrat, GOP Agendas Signal Fights to Come on Budget, Taxes

By Helen Dewar
The Washington Post

Senate Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday unveiled rival legislative agendas that point to bitter fights over a balanced-budget amendment and campaign finance reform but raise the prospect of agreement on issues ranging from schools to crime.

While insisting that they wanted accommodation with President Clinton, Republicans challenged him on issues ranging from abortion to taxes, a signal that the path to agreement on these and other issues may be difficult.

The Senate unveilings came as the House was consumed with its unprecedented punishment of Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) for ethics violations and underscores the leading role the Senate is fashioning for itself setting the legislative direction of the 105th Congress.

Dismissing suggestions that partisan rancor over Gingrich's troubles might torpedo bipartisan initiatives on Capitol Hill, Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) said they were committed to working together on common objectives.

"I hope we will be able to move on with the issues the American people are concerned about and try to get away from some of the personality problems we've been dealing with," Lott said. While his role and Gingrich's would change, he said, he would continue to work closely with the speaker.

Daschle rejected suggestions that Gingrich step down and added, "I would hope we could minimize the intense polarization that has come from attacks on the president, as well as the criticism that the speaker has received."

In introducing the Republicans' top 11 initiatives for the new Congress, Lott gave top priority to a constitutional amendment to force balanced budgets, which is opposed by the Clinton administration and Democratic leaders. Lott said he would push for Senate action on the amendment by the end of next month.

Republicans figure they have the two-thirds majority needed to pass the amendment in the Senate, which rejected it two years ago. A provision that was added in 1995 to shield the budget from judicial enforcement was dropped this year, which could complicate passage.