"Mr. Chairman," said Sen. H. John Heinz III (R-Pa.), "the Andrew Johnson table believes the Rutherford B. Hayes amendment is preferable to the Teddy Roosevelt language now pending - with a few changes."
There were no snickers among the Republican officials who filled the room at the Tidewater Inn here this weekend, as Heinz made this curious observation.
By that time on Saturday afternoon, the rules and the lingo of the parlor game invented by Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) had been thoroughly assimilated by the 50 professional politicians present. They were focused on the serious effort to find the right words to tell the American voters how their party differ from the Democrats on the question of tax policy.
What Packwood, the chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Commitee, called the first of an annual series of Tidewater Conferences adjourned at noon yesterday, having adopted seven brief policy statements on civil rights, national defense, economic and tax energy, reapportionment issues, and federal assistance to local governments.
The statements - although reflecting the consensus of many of the GOP's key congressional leaders and several of its potential 1980 presidential contenders who attended - have no binding force.
But the process - built on a 15-year-old annual issues conference for Republican volunteers held at a resort on the Oregon seacoast - was immensely reassuring to party leaders still scarred from the ideological battles of the 1976 convention.
"This signals something very gratifying about the Republican Party," said Senate minority leader and prospective 1980 contender Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.). "There is a spirit of accomodation and a willingness to go forward together."
"It demonstrates," said Republican National Chairman Bill Brock, "that there's an awful lot more that unifies people in this party than divides us."
Packwood, Brock and Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R-Mich.), chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, invited the 255 Republicans elected to the House, the Senate or state wide office. The 50 who accepted, mainly people in their 30s or 40s, spanned the ideological spectrum.
There were such staunch conversatives as Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), James Wallop (R-Wyo.). And there were such progressives as Heinz and Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R.N.Y.), Govs. Roberts D. Ray of Iowa and Pierre S. (pete) DuPont of Delaware, and Reps. John B. Anderson (R-III.) and Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey (R-Calif.).
The elected officials and their spouses - who were encouraged to join the debate but not allowed to vote - were divided among seven tables, each named for a past Republican president. None was named for Richard Nixon or Gerald Ford, however.
What Heinz called "the incredible game without rules" saw a series of mini-debates on draft propositions designed, as Packwood said, "to distinguish the Republican philosophy and approach from that of the Democrats."
Each proposition was argued and amended around individual tables for 45 minutes and then debated and lobbied for a similar period in the whole group, before being brought to a vote.
Here, in summary, are the positions the conference took:
On civil rights, "we support positive and vigorous action which removes all roadblocks to equal opportunity and which increases the numerical participation of minorities without imposing numerical quotas."
At the urging of Baker, the delegates substituted "positive and vigorous action" for the draft resolution's reference to "affirmative action," which Baker called "buzz-words that mean different things to different people."
But liberals, led by McCloskey and Oregon Secretary of State Norma Paulus, succeeded in eliminating a broader statement of opposition to certain "government action" against discrimination, which they said could be taken as a slap at the courts or "a new form of racism."
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] much greater reliance should be placed on tax incentives which encourage individual and other private sector decisions in the public interest the taxpayer and administered by a than on federal program financed by federal bureaucracy directed from Washington."
In the first ow two statements on tax policy, the conference said "a [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
This formulation, implying wider use of tax credits, split the conference 23 to 19, with opponents warning it could impede moves for tax code simplification and tax-rate reductions.
But the prevailing view was expressed by ReP. Millicent Fenwick (R-N.J.), who said, "It's much better to give industry an incentive to create jobs than to put the money in that terrible CETA (the Comprehensive Employment Training Act, the federal public service jobs program)which is so full of scandal and nonsense."
In the second tax statement, the conference favored "substantial permanent reductions in federal income and capital gains tax rates in order to nomic growth and expand the reward restore incentive, encourage real eco- for working, saving and investing."
This approach, embodied in legislation sponsored by three of the conferees, Sen. William V. Roth (R-Del.) and Reps. William Steiger (R-Wis.) Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), will be offered by congressional Republicans as an alternative to the pending Carter administration tax cut and "reform" proposals.
While the resoluton said deep tax cut now would help "achieve a balanced budget," Kemp argued strongly that Republicans should put economic growth and individual incentive ahead of their traditional budget-balancing for both economic and political reasons, and his view prevailed.
On federal aid, the conference said "the vast, complex and fragmented array of federal grant programs" should be "substantially consolidated . . . through block grants . . . except when overwhelming and compelling nationals goals demand uniform national policy . . ."
On defense policy, the resolution accused the Democrats of supporting "unilateral U.S. disarmament in the face of mounting Soviet military agressiveness." It called for "maintaining a balance of power" in both conventional and strategic forces and said "any agreement on arms limitations must fully protect the security of the United States and our allies."
That general language was approved after several efforts to urge expansion of specific weapons systems or spell out detailed criticisms of the current strategic arms limitation talks were debated and turned down. It reflected a broad Republican opposition to the Carter administration's approach to military issue and the negotiations with the Soviet Union.
In the area of energy policy, the conference said the continuing impasse on Carter's energy legislation "is clear evidence of the failure of national leadership by the Democrats." It urged an end to informal congressional negotiations and immediate resumption of "open meetings of all members of the congressional conference on energy to resolve this vital issue in public, as the rules of Congress require."
Anticipating problems with reapportionment after the 1980 census in state legislature where Democrats now hold a dominant position, the conference voted to "challenge the Democratic Party to join us in support of nonpartisan reapportionment commissions" as an alternative to "the tired process of political log-rolling and gerrymandering."
House Minority Leader John J. Rhodes (R-Ariz.), who said he had been skeptical of the Tidewater Conference when it first proposed, offered the final resolution - urging that another be held next year.