President Clinton bluntly rejected a congressional attempt to take control of certain foreign affairs and defense policies, all but threatening a veto should the bill reach his desk. In a letter to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Clinton said that the legislation, which among other things would make it harder for the president to put troops under foreign command, "represents an assault on the authority of the president as commander in chief." Newt's responded at a press conference today: "We disagree deeply with the way they would risk American lives around the planet." In a series of moves outlined in the GOP "Contract With America," the Republican leadership also wants to cut spending on the United Nations, expand membership in NATO and speed development of a national missile defense system. Clinton said those measures would fuel unneeded spending while, among other things, slowing much-needed U.N. reform. The tough stance follows Clinton's threat to veto the GOP crime bill. "The White House strategy now is to come out swinging a lot harder," says TIME Washington correspondent Suneel Ratan.