Are Republicans Wising Up on Budget Surplus?

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For the GOP, Thursday may have been the start of something sensible. Party leaders backed off their declarations Tuesday that every penny of the 10-year non-Social Security surplus –- a little over a trillion dollars by White House estimates, a little under by Congressional Budget Office figures released Thursday –- should go right back into America’s paychecks. Instead, there was some very Clinton-like talk of spreading things around. "We may put a little bit more money in tax cuts," said the House Budget honcho (and Presidential candidate) John Kasich. "But we're not going to take all of these extra resources if we think we have a legitimate way to really reform Medicare."

Then there was another Clinton-owned issue the GOP is trying to recover –- with George W.’s help –- in time for 2000: education. On Thursday, Republicans on the House Committee on Education voted down the administration’s $1.2 billion proposal to hire 100,000 new teachers, and then –- with two Democrats joining in –- voted to let local school districts make the decision whether they want to hire more teachers or improve the ones they have. The downside is headlines like "Republicans Thwart Clinton on New Teachers," the upside is that the money stays with education in a way –- devolving decision-making to the locals, not the feds –- that not only jibes with Republican dogma but just might be a good idea. Are Clinton and Gore going to beat them over the head with this? You bet. Do Republicans finally have a few good arguments that don’t involve tax cuts? If Steve Forbes can run as a social conservative –- and actually hold a fund-raiser,which he did the other day –- anything can happen.