WASHINGTON — NOT energy taxes. Not Social Security tax increases. The toughest element in the Clinton economic package to sell on Capitol Hill lies in its underlying assumptions, says Vice President Al Gore Jr.
The White House is figuring its deficit cuts by using the relatively pessimistic economic forecasts of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Recent presidents have used the forecasts of their own Office of Management and Budget, which has produced somewhat rosier views.
Mr. Gore attended a Monitor breakfast the morning after Mr. Clinton's address to Congress. The temptation to calculate savings using more forgiving projections will still have to be warded off, he said.
When Clinton mentioned in his speech that he would rely on the CBO, Republicans broke into raucous laughter. That, says Gore, "was a serious overplaying of their hand."
Although the CBO is formally independent and nonpartisan, those who laughed were trying to play off the word "congressional" in the agency's name. Gore called that "consciously dishonest."
Clinton stopped his speech to observe that the CBO forecasts had been truer in the past than OMB forecasts. "The president yanked them up short and they knew it," Gore said.
Television cameras caught Gore, who stood behind Clinton in the House chamber Wednesday night, gesturing for the members to rise in ovation during the speech.
He was not stage managing the many ovations by the majority Democratic audience, he explains.
Instead, he was urging reluctant Republican friends in the audience to join in ovations for policies he knew they supported.
* The breakfast attended by Gore marked the 27th year of Monitor breakfasts - 2,553 of them as of yesterday - hosted by columnist and former Washington bureau chief Godfrey Sperling.