CBSN

Tax Cutting High On GOP Agenda

Republican leaders of the House and Senate on Thursday pledged work to preserve Social Security, cut taxes and improve education as they sketched the outlines of an agenda for the 106th Congress that convenes in January.

Tax cuts are "very, very high on the agenda," said Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana, who will become speaker of the House in January.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi added: "We want to work to preserve Social Security, and work to make sure we have a fairer, simpler tax code."

Lott and Livingston, fellow southerners and longtime congressional colleagues, sat in armchairs in front of a blazing fireplace, the mantle adorned with Christmas decorations. They appeared jovial and relaxed in what amounted to their national television debut as the face of the GOP Congress.

In their brief question-and-answer session with reporters, the two men were peppered with questions about the pending impeachment inquiry against President Clinton.

Livingston indicated he hopes the House can be called into session later this month to vote on any articles of impeachment, if the Judiciary Committee concludes its work next week.

Lott said he believed a trial would go forward in the Senate if any impeachment charges cleared the House. "I think that it would be very hard not to if the House in fact acted. But I think to speculate beyond that would be totally inappropriate," he said.

Both men said they had been discussing an agenda for after lawmakers convene in January, and offered only the slightest detail. They also intend to meet Friday with Republican governors, some of whom have made clear they want greater input into the drafting of a legislative agenda than they were granted in the past.

"Providing more jobs, saving Social Security, making sure that our youngsters have good schools to attend, and all of these things are going to be right at the forefront of our agenda next year," said Livingston, whom Republicans have chosen to replace Newt Gingrich as speaker. He added that tax cuts will be "very, very high on the agenda."

In his comments, Lott also cited preserving Social Security and education and stressed the need for a fairer tax code. He also made reference to fixing the "unfair marriage penalty," which requires come couples to pay higher taxes than they would if single. Earlier this week, Lott also said he would push for across-the-board cuts in taxes.

When it came time for questions, though, none was about legislative issues, and all were about impeachment. Lott laughingly told reporters he had a question himself: Didn't anyone want to ask about another topic?

He got no takers.

Livingston, nominated as the majority Republicans' candidate for speaker two weeks ago, said he felt like he had been confronted with a firehose as he struggled with the transition to power.

"I think that by the ime that Jan. 6 comes around we'll be up and running," he said. At the same time, he appealed for patience.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed