- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

The Senate is expected to pass today legislation providing married couples $248 billion in tax cuts over the next decade.
Republicans say the plan is necessary to help double-income married couples penalized under the tax code and to provide further tax breaks to families with a stay-at-home spouse.
Democrats and the White House argue that single-earner families already benefit under the tax code and that the Republican plan gives too much of its relief to the wealthy.
"It is not a question of rich and poor," countered Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican. "I want to repeal the marriage penalty for everyone."
The measure is identical to one brought to the Senate floor in March but stymied by Democratic insistence on offering amendments.
Today's bill, however, enjoys special rules under the budget passed this spring by Congress.
"That means no one is going to delay us from passing this bill," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth Jr., Delaware Republican. "We will have an up-or-down vote… . We will see who thinks that American families are not entitled to this relief."
Under current law, some married couples those earning roughly the same income pay more in taxes than if they had remained single.
This so-called "marriage penalty" was intentionally created to prevent a single-earner family from paying substantially less in taxes than a single worker with the same amount of income.
But with double-income families becoming the norm, easing the penalty has become a priority for Republicans in recent years.
Democrats argued that the Republican plan would go well beyond fixing the marriage penalty.
"They apply the phony label of 'marriage penalty' even though 58 percent of the tax cuts go to couples that pay no marriage penalty at all," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrats.
He supported a Democratic alternative that would have allowed married couples to decide whether they would be better off filing taxes under current law, or filing as if still single.
Republicans were expected to defeat the Democratic alternative, and a host of other amendments that were pending last night.
The Republican-written Senate bill expected to pass today is largely similar to legislation approved 269-to-159 by the House on July 12.
Both bills in 2001 would increase the standard deduction for married couples from $7,350 to $8,800. From 2002 to 2007, both bills would incrementally increase the amount of income subject to the lowest rate of tax 15 percent from $43,850 to $53,000. A similar provision is part of the House bill and would save couples earning $53,000 or more $1,190 each year.
But in a break from the House, the Senate would also increase the amount of a married couple's income taxed in the next highest bracket. Under the bill, the amount subject to the 28 percent rate instead of the 31 percent rate would increase from $105,950 to $127,100.
The chief sponsor of the last provision, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, says the tax break, which would cost $10 billion, is necessary to help middle-class families.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart hinted yesterday that President Clinton will veto the bill unless Republicans in Congress approve his plan to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.
"The president put forward a proposal that targets marriage penalty relief to those who actually pay the marriage penalty," Mr. Lockhart told reporters at Camp David.
"However, the president has said that in return for cooperation on moving a prescription drug benefit within Medicare, he'd be willing to go along with the more expansive program that the Republicans have put forward.
"So this is a question that's very much in the Republican leadership's hands. They can make political points, pass bills so they can talk about them at their convention, or we can get marriage penalty relief and prescription drugs for seniors, as the president has offered.
"It's up to them politics or substance."

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