Cheney Meets With Lieberman

Richard 'Dick' Cheney and Joseph 'Joe' Lieberman shake hands at the outset of the first and only debate in Danville Kentucky
Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, meeting for the first time since the election with former rival Joe Lieberman, on Thursday defended the incoming administration's pessimism about the economy and pledged to seek bipartisan agreement on issues before Congress.

Cheney and Lieberman, who was Al Gore's running mate on the Democratic ticket, talked privately in the Connecticut senator's Capitol Hill office for less than half an hour and appeared together before reporters.

In answer to a question, Cheney denied that he and President-elect Bush are being overly pessimistic about the economy for political gain, especially to boost support for their 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut as a way of stimulating growth.

"We don't want to talk down the economy, clearly," Cheney said. "But there does seem to be a lot of evidence out there it's not just something that we're seeing but a lot of evidence that, in fact, the economy has slowed down some.

"Whether or not this ultimately results in a recession ... nobody knows at this time," he added.

Lieberman agreed that the economy is slowing, but pointed to low unemployment rates and projected growth for the coming year as signs that the economy is still strong overall.

"It's obvious that there's something happening in the economy now," Lieberman said. "But you've got to look at it in perspective because the economy has been pumping away at an extraordinary rate. In some ways, we're way above the norm."

He said it will be up to Congress and the new administration to keep federal spending down and the economy in check.

Regarding the new administration's legislative agenda, Lieberman said they discussed education reform and modernizing the nation's military as two potential areas for Republicans and Democrats to reach common ground in the 107th Congress.

Bush and Cheney, who just barely won the election, face a Senate divided 50-50 and a House with a slender GOP majority. Cheney, as president of the Senate, would get the tiebreaker vote.

"Maybe the closeness of the election at all levels, not just presidential, but congressional as well, will shake all of us to the extent that we do what the people of America always tell us they want us to do, which is work together to get something done," Lieberman said.

They discussed some specifics, such as the controversial issue of government school vouchers to allow parents to send children to private school. But Cheney said it was more of a "comparing notes" session, not an attempt to begin writing a bill, and Lieberman suggested the voucher issue would be difficult to resolve.

"I haven't counted heads or anything, but my guess is that that is still true and that's something we'll have to work out," he said.

There was no sign of animosity between the two men, who have known each other for years and worked together during the Gulf Wawhen Cheney was defense secretary.

The former rivals appeared relaxed and Lieberman, asked if there were "any problems" with potential Cabinet nominees, responded this way:

"You mean for me? I was going to make clear that the position I aspire to in the administration seems to be filled," he said.