Fred Arnold of Rocky Mount, NC comments:
Speaker-to-be Livingston's strength is seen to be his ability to "reach
across the aisle" to pass legislation. Will he have any success? House
Minority Leader Gephardt has already said that he believes the election
gave him a working majority, allying with moderate Republicans to promote
a presumably more "liberal" agenda. It seems that Livingston would have
little to offer Democrats that they couldn't get on their own. Please
In the 106th Congress, House Republicans, saddled with the narrowest
majority in decades, may find themselves at times wishing that they
had lost their majority in the 1998 elections. As the majority party
under conditions of divided government, Republicans will find themselves
constantly stuck on the horns of a dilemma for which they can blame
James Madison. Our separation of powers system confronts both parties
in the House with a central strategic dilemma, one that does not plague
parties in parliamentary systems. In the British parliamentary system,
for example, the majority party forms the "government" while the minority
party plays the loyal "opposition." This "government vs. opposition"
calculus, however, is more complicated under our separation or powers.
Indeed, under conditions of "divided government" the House majority
party is regularly torn between the need to be part of the "government"
or part of the "opposition." In the 106th Congress, Republicans will
find themselves facing the twin temptations of government or opposition,
and compromise or confrontation with the Democratic White House. Meanwhile,
it will be easier for Democrats to obstruct, than it will be for Republicans
to advance legislation.
Certainly Speaker-designate Livingston's ability to "reach across the
aisle" may prove instrumental as he seeks to govern the perennially
unruly House, especially given his party's slim majority. Republicans
can at least console themselves with the knowledge that the minority
Democrats face a similar dilemma. Often Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle
will find themselves as much at odds with Bill Clinton and Al Gore as
they are with Bob Livingston and Trent Lott. Republicans, of course,
also have the added consolation that they control the committee chairmanships.