Sorry, Newt

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WASHINGTON: After three of Newt Gingrich's top lieutenants apologized for their involvement in a foiled coup attempt against him, Republicans said the episode is in the past and that the party should press ahead with the GOP agenda. The three-hour heart to heart, which Henry Bonilla of Texas described as "filled with emotion, filled with passion," ended without calls for the heads of Dick Armey, Tom DeLay and John Boehner, figures implicated in the plot along with Bill Paxon, who stepped-down last week. The lieutenants were let off the hook despite a particularly damaging account by DeLay, who admitted he informed GOP rebels he would vote with them if they moved to unseat Gingrich. Despite the admission, participants said DeLay attempted to soften his confession by saying he made his decision in a cloud of exhaustion after working 18 hours straight. Later, Boehner and Army got on their hands and knees, admitting they had entertained "hypotheticals" about a Gingrich replacement. By meeting's end, all three said they were sorry for failing to nip the revolt in the bud the moment they caught wind of it. The apologies were accepted by a magnanimous Gingrich, who said the incident is officially over and that the party should now press ahead together to complete the tax-cut and balanced budget bills. But given the amount of distrust that's certain to linger within the party, working together may be easier said than done.