JIM LEHRER: House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt is first tonight. He follows this setup report by Spencer Michels.
SPENCER MICHELS: In recent weeks House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt has publicly distanced himself rom the Clinton administration on several important policy issues.
SPOKESMAN: The Minority Leader is recognized for five minutes.
SPENCER MICHELS: On May 20th, Gephardt went to the House floor and announced his opposition to the balanced budget agreement negotiated by the White House and the GOP Congress.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT: And in my view, this budget agreement is a budget of many deficits: a deficit of principle, a deficit of fairness, a deficit of tax justice, and worst of all, a deficit of dollars.
I don't believe this budget is fair. I don't believe it invests properly in the future of our country and our economy and our people. And I do not believe the numbers will work, and I don't think there is a system in place to make sure that they do.
SPENCER MICHELS: On Tuesday, Gephardt came out against another Clinton priority--normalizing trade relations with China by renewing most favored nation status.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT: If you give normal trading status to a country that has no human rights and no worker rights, you are ensuring that you're going to be competing with a nation that has a very, very low standard of living with no hope that the standard of living will go up. In fact, in China's case, we believe there are about 2 million workers who are in prison who are manufacturing products, many of which are sold in the United States. So by accepting that kind of a relationship you're putting tremendous pressure on American wages and on the American standard of living.
SPENCER MICHELS: Gephardt's highly publicized differences with the President have led to speculation he is positioning himself for another presidential bid in the year 2000. Gephardt made a short-lived run for the Democratic nomination for President in 1988.
In London today, in the midst of his European visit, President Clinton made no mention of presidential politics. He said recent statements by Congressman Gephardt simply were honest expressions of policy differences.
RITA BREAVER, CBS News: Mr. President, bearing--I'm sorry. I'm Rita Breaver with CBS News. Bearing in mind your comments on the budget, I was wondering if you have been listening to your own minority leader. He is against you on the budget. He is against you on MFN, he is against you on expansion of NATO on a fast track. And I wondered if you could explain maybe whether you think it's you or he who represents the hearts and minds of the Democratic Party, and whether maybe you think there is--it's time for a new minority leader, or maybe you don't really want that Democratic majority you talked about at the beginning of the news conference.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, I think for one thing I think you know, I disagree with him about the--about the budget and MFN for China, and we've had some trade differences since I came here. Otherwise, he's supported me on just about everything. Individual people will have differences on individual issues, they'll see the world in different ways. But I think I did the right thing, and I think we're going to--I think the country will be immensely benefitted by it, and I think everybody that voted for it, in retrospect, will be happy. And those that didn't vote for it will be pleased that what they thought was wrong with it wasn't. That's what I think will happen.
SPENCER MICHELS: The President also pointed out that an overwhelming majority of Democrats in Congress sided with him and not Gephardt on the recent balanced budget plan.