FROM his view on the sidelines, one of the Republicans' top gadflies predicts President Clinton will succeed in passing his deficit-reduction package.
"I have to believe, technically, that when you get to the crunch, you can get 50 senators and 218 House members," Rep. Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia - the No. 2 House Republican - told a Monitor breakfast yesterday.
This assessment comes despite doubts being raised about whether the president has the votes. Some Democrats, like Sen. David Boren (D) of Oklahoma, who voted with the president last time in the 50-49 squeaker, have raised problems with the package as it is being worked out with Republicans. These may be negotiating ploys, but with no margin for error, the White House can't take any vote for granted.
Mr. Gingrich echoes the prevailing view in Washington that, somehow, Mr. Clinton will get a package: "The presidency when it goes to work fulltime on one item is very formidable, and they have a big enough majority that they should be able to barely get this through."
But he adds this does not bode well for the president's ability to pass legislation on health-care reform and on the North American Free Trade Agreement and for any other tough issue, "because they're using up an amazing number of their chits."
Gingrich, of course, is no fan of the president's plan, and given his deep opposition to tax increases, he agrees there's no point in his sitting down with the president on this subject.
But Gingrich, ever a fount of theories on how to replace what he calls America's "welfare state" and install programs to empower people, plans to organize his admittedly piecemeal approach into a coherent plan. This fall, he will teach a 20-hour course at Kennesaw State College in Marietta, Ga., on this subject.
"I'll reteach it in '94, '95, and '96, and my explicit goal is by April of '96 to have a coherent, complete blueprint, or road map, that you can look at on economic growth, on health, and on saving inner cities, and you can say, this meets the test of seriousness," he says.
Gingrich has been interviewing people all over the country to find out "what works," he says.
The course will be shown via satellite at 50 sites around the country, including Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
McGraw-Hill will also publish a book of readings from Gingrich.