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Some GOP Freshmen Shy Away From ‘Contract’

January 10, 1995 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Republicans, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, may appear to be a well-oiled army, marching to fulfill the party’s ``Contract With America.″ But some members of the Grand Old Party are determinedly out of step.

Freshman Rep. Jim Bunn’s fears that the GOP proposals on welfare could encourage teen-age abortions made him one of the few House Republicans who wouldn’t go along with his brethren.

``I did not sign the `Contract’ because of the provision that calls for cutting off support for teen-age mothers,″ Bunn, R-Ore., an outspoken abortion opponent, said in an interview. ``As an individual who is pro-life, I feel you have a responsibility to help people with a crisis pregnancy.″


The ``Contract With America,″ on which the Republican Party campaigned to an historic victory in November, promises House votes on 10 proposals including a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget, sharp limits on welfare benefits, a line-item veto, and term limits for lawmakers. Many GOP candidates made the document _ orchestrated by Gingrich, R-Ga. _ the centerpiece of their campaigns.

But freshmen Reps. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., two other non-signers, expressed concerns that the federal deficit would widen if Congress increased defense spending while cutting the capital gains tax rate and providing a $500-per-child tax credit.

``In the 80s, we gave everybody tax cuts, which was marvelous,″ said LaHood, who won the seat vacated by retiring House Minority Leader Bob Michel, R-Ill. ``It stimulated the economy. But we increased our defense (spending) dramatically and we’re running huge deficits now.

``I just think the American people are pretty smart and they recognize that we simply don’t have the money at this point to be writing them a check,″ LaHood said.

Incumbent Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., also opted against signing the ``contract.″ Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart both objected to a provision that would take welfare and other benefits from non-citizens, including legal permanent residents. Both represent districts with large Cuban-American populations.

Young, a House member since 1973, didn’t sign because he had some reservations about its welfare reform and term limits provisions, said spokesman Steven Hansen.

But most of the attention has been placed on the newcomers.

Bunn’s concerns signal a potential philosophical split within the GOP’s right wing, pitting welfare reformers against anti-abortionists.

``Unfortunately, some families will say, `If you are pregnant, get out on your own.′ If that happens, telling a girl she shouldn’t have an abortion, but we won’t help, is not the thing to do,″ said Bunn, who won the seat left open by retiring Rep. Mike Kopetski, D-Ore.

Brownback, meanwhile, said people have a mistaken impression that the November vote was ``Newt’s revolution.″

``I think it’s the people’s revolution,″ said Brownback, who easily defeated Democratic Gov. John Carlin of Kansas to replace Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan. ``This was very much a populist election.″

Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is another freshman who didn’t sign the ``contract,″ but his chief aide, Karl Ahlgren, said that wasn’t because he opposed it. ``He took the contract and drafted his own contract, expanding some of his thoughts with the many thoughts from the people in his district,″ Ahlgren said.