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Democrats Gagged on Gingrich Book Deal

IN the first big partisan uproar after three weeks of relative peace, a Democratic congresswoman was reprimanded in the new Republican-led House for criticizing Speaker Newt Gingrich over his controversial book deal.

On a party-line tally, the House voted 217 to 178 Wednesday to strike the words of criticism of Rep. Carrie Meek (D) of Florida, from the official record after she attacked the deal with a publishing firm owned by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

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The reprimand touched off shouts by Democrats that Republicans were applying a double standard and ``gagging'' their party, now in the minority after four decades of rule. During the two-hour uproar on the floor, Republicans shouted that Ms. Meek was violating House rules. Mr. Gingrich had first agreed to a $4.5-million advance from Harper Collins and then rejected it after questions of propriety were raised by Democrats and Republicans.

Gingrich now says he will accept a token $1 advance and royalties from sales of two proposed books. Meek claimed he will still make too much money on the deal. Gingrich and Murdoch met Nov. 28 before the book deal was concluded but deny discussing the book. Murdoch is seeking congressional support for a TV station ownership dispute before the Federal Communications Commission.

Meek's criticism of Gingrich's book deal followed days of attacks by Democrats on the deal and their calls for an outside counsel to investigate the propriety and ethics of the arrangement. Meek later addressed the House again, saying, ``There's nothing in the rules of the House that says Carrie Meek can't speak the truth and that's what I've done.'' Democrats burst into applause.

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