Like the president, first-term Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Frist of Tennessee said their party stands for protecting Social Security, extending health insurance to more Americans, eliminating the national debt and ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries have access to prescription drugs.
But these goals must be accomplished without an explosion of federal spending and new bureaucracies, they said. "Mr. President, please -- no more red tape," Frist said.
However, Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, chairman of the Republican conference, told CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Jane Clayson that he was happy to hear the president's focus on legislation targeting poor and rural communities.
"I think we can come to some resolution on this legislation," Watts said, "and I look forward to working with him."
Meanwhile, Collins and Frist, two 47-year-old pragmatists known for working well with Democrats, both cited personal experiences in promoting the GOP way.
Frist, a heart-lung transplant surgeon, recalled working in England for the British National Health Service and seeing "firsthand the rationing, the lack of choice, the long waits and the denial of care for seniors."
He said Clinton's health care proposals, including his ambitious plan to extend coverage to the parents of children protected by the Children's Health Insurance Program, were "just as bad" as his 1993 attempt to create a universal health care program.
The children's program lets states offer Medicaid or other insurance to children in low-income working families who are not poor enough to qualify for traditional Medicaid.
Republicans, Frist said, would work to reform Medicare, pass a patients' rights bill that makes lawsuits against HMOs a last resort, and ensure that Americans have choice and security in their health care alternatives.
Collins, a former college administrator, repeated the Republican principle that better education must come through more local control. "The debate in Washington is not about money. It's about who makes the decisions," she said.
Collins said Republicans will continue to increase federal funds for elementary and secondary education, but local schools and communities should decide how to spend the money. She said Republicans also will increase federal grants for use in teacher recruiting and training, and will promote education savings accounts so parents better can save money for their children's education.
Collins touched briefly on other Republican goals - cutting taxes such as the estate "death tax," eliminating the $3.6 trillion public debt in the next 15 years and building a national missle defens