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Lott says GOP will focus on legislative agenda

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 1999 (UPI) - After taking another shot at President Clinton over the Lewinsky affair, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott promised Americans his party was ready to return to fighting him over its legislative agenda, including military Delivering his party's weekly radio address the morning after the Republican-led Senate failed to muster even a simple majority for either of two GOP-engineered impeachment charges, Lott began by declaring that ''most'' senators still believe Clinton ''lied under oath while trying to obstruct justice.'' He said that Congress will now have to ''let future historians decide who did their duty and who did the right thing.''

Lott then told listeners that, ''like you, I'm relieved it's over,'' and proceeded to suggest many Americans might not realize that already ''bills have been introduced by the hundreds'' in Congress.

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''We must move forward now on the people's business,'' Lott said, repeating a phrase often heard at the White House during the 13 months of investigation into Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. ''We must do our job.''

As part of their strategy, Republicans departed Washington immediately after the Senate impeachment vote Friday with plans to spend a weeklong recess at a series of more than 100 town hall meetings nationwide. It is part of a planned two-month public relations blitz highlighting the party's legislative agenda.

In his radio address, Lott placed particular emphasis on Republican calls for an across-the-board tax cut, agreeing with Clinton's calls for keeping enough of the federal surplus to protect Social Security but saying taxpayers are entitled to the rest. Clinton instead has called for using the portion of the surplus beyond that needed for Social Security to fund other long-term needs, chief among them preserving Medicare and paying down the national debt.

After decades of budget deficits, the federal government is now projected to run surpluses totaling some $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Lott said Republicans would argue ''emphatically'' for large-scale tax cuts, and accused Clinton of suggesting that he and others in ''official Washington'' feel they are better able than the taxpayers themselves to spend their money.

He suggested it was the functional equivalent of walking up to workers at the Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard where his father worked and telling them ''face to face that he knew better than you'' how to spend a paycheck. But instead of doing it directly, Lott said, Clinton ''has the IRS to do it for them.''

Lott also vowed to push Clinton for increased military spending, including funding for a ballistic missile defense and increased salaries for soldiers. Although Clinton already has begun backing such measures himself, Lott said Republicans ''will not rest until America rests assured from the threat of ballistic missile attack,'' and said U.S. troops ''should not be dependent upon food stamps to feed their own children.''

Lott also endorsed Clinton's emphasis on education reform, but insisted upon methods that give greater control to local authorities. ''He seems to think,'' Lott said of Clinton, ''that spending decisions are better made, even in our schools, when they are made in Washington.''

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