Newt Needles Gore On 2000 Glitch

House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday the federal government is behind in efforts to deal with the Year 2000 computer problem, and he suggested the glitch looms as a political liability for Vice President Al Gore's expected presidential candidacy.

"I think it's a big problem, not a small problem," Gingrich told participants in the opening of a telecommunications trade show, Supercomm. "I think the president and Al Gore need to look at it.'

"I can't imagine anything more destructive for Gore's political future than to talk about the information superhighway and then to have the largest wreck in history on the first of January 2000," the Georgia Republican added.

A House panel led by Rep. Steve Horn, R-Calif., last week gave several government agencies failing grades on their progress in resolving the problem for their systems.

Experts have warned for years that many computers originally programmed to recognize only the last two digits of a year will fail on Jan. 1, 2000, because they will read the date as 1900.

A council set up by Clinton said last week it believes agencies are making progress, but should pick up the pace.

Gingrich said Congress "will give them whatever resources" needed.

The telecommunications industry executives and workers applauded Gingrich's criticism of Federal Communications Commission fees on telephone bills to help provide cheap Internet hookups for schools, libraries and rural health care providers.

The FCC is deciding how much money should be collected from telecommunications companies to pay for the hookups in the second half of this year.

"It is wrong for five unelected, appointed commissioners to be able to establish a tax on every telephone line in the United States," Gingrich said, pledging to move against it in the next two weeks.

Written by Dan Sewell ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed