For GOP, double dose of woe in inauguration, Gingrich vote
WASHINGTON (AP) _ For Republicans, there was little celebration, just the start of a bleak week. They had to sit back Monday and watch the beginning of their second term of exile from the White House while preparing to punish their leader at the Capitol.
Except for GOP lawmakers involved in the inauguration itself, the Grand Old Party basically closed down for the day.
A tape recording answered the phone at the Republican National Committee headquarters. Most GOP congressional offices were closed while many Democratic offices were open, even though it was a federal holiday.
The party’s 1996 standard-bearer, Bob Dole, did not attend the inauguration.
Shut out of the many balls and celebrations around town, one group of young Republicans even planned a ``Mourning in America: We Feel Your Pain″ alternative ball.
It was also the eve of the day House Republicans must swallow hard and vote to discipline their first speaker in four decades. The House votes Tuesday on a resolution to reprimand Newt Gingrich for ethical misconduct and to assess him $300,000.
Republicans tried to be good sports, but sometimes there was an edge to their comments.
``Republicans join in congratulating President Clinton and in extending a hand of cooperation,″ said the new Republican National Committee chairman, Jim Nicholson.
``At the same time, Republicans look forward to four years from today when we plan to celebrate the inauguration of a Republican president to work with a Republican Congress entering the next millennium.″
Gingrich himself tried to be upbeat, proclaiming in a toast at a lunch for Clinton in the Capitol, ``This is a joyous occasion.″ But it was a reference more to the peaceful workings of democracy than to the GOP psyche.
``It’s been a very difficult time for Newt and for his wife, but in a strange way it’s kind of pulled the Republicans closer together,″ suggested Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Budget Committee and one of the GOP’s rising stars.
Republicans could still console themselves, of course, with the fact that they remain in control of Congress _ a point Gingrich joked about in his luncheon remarks.
And at least one Republican, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, had the second-most prominent role on the inaugural podium, after Clinton, as chairman of the inaugural committee.
``You’d much rather win the White House. But for the long-term good for the country and the party, I think we’d rather have Congress,″ suggested longtime GOP operative Charles Black, a former acting RNC chairman.
Black, like many other leading Republicans, found encouragement in Clinton’s conciliatory tone. ``We have a great opportunity here, if he’s serious, to pass some Republican legislation,″ Black said.
Rep. Susan Molinari, R-N.Y., last summer’s GOP convention keynoter, agreed. ``Smaller government, personal responsibility ... he was talking about those themes that bring us together,″ she said.
``Well, I had something else in mind, obviously, until the election,″ said Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, who attended the inauguration. ``But that’s the way America goes.″
Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was ``just honored to be out there on the porch (of the Capitol) ... This was a time to put aside partisan differences and start thinking about how we can work together toward getting a better future.″
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., planned a morning news conference Tuesday to announce the GOP legislative agenda for the 105th Congress, beginning with introduction of the session’s first legislation _ a proposed constitutional amendment to balance the budget.
Although Lott shared the platform with Clinton and accompanied him in the inaugural parade, he did not plan to attend any of the evening inaugural festivities, according to spokeswoman Susan Irby.
``I had four great tickets to watch the inauguration, but I gave them away to close friends,″ said GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who spent the day working instead. ``The talk of revolution is over but Republicans haven’t given up hope in their efforts to change Washington. But clearly the dialogue has changed.″
Former Bush domestic adviser James Pinkerton suggested the GOP angst over Gingrich will be short-lived. ``What’s to complain about here? Republicans have the Congress and the Republicans have the ideological high ground, as the president’s speech itself suggested.″
Still, he said, ``Republicans need a better plan, a better process, for selecting a candidate, having been clobbered in two presidential elections in a row.″