- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2000

Vice President Al Gore, fancying himself a latter-day Harry Truman, has lately adopted a variation of Truman's 1948 campaign slogan, criticizing the Republican-controlled 106th Congress as a "do-nothing-for-people Congress." Well, if that isn't clever of him.

As Mr. Gore was sloganeering, Congress was in the midst of granting taxpayers a series of long-overdue tax cuts. Much to the chagrin of the Clinton-Gore administration, moreover, the tax cuts Congress has been passing have been significantly bipartisan.

Putting a chink in Mr. Gore's armor, 65 Democrats joined 214 Republicans on June 9 to pass a bill to gradually eliminate the estate tax, which is more aptly called the "death tax." Passed in the House by a 279-136 veto-proof margin, the bill would reduce taxes by $100 billion over the next 10 years. Last week the Senate voted to eliminate the estate tax by a 59-39 margin, which included nine of the Senate's 45 Democrats, including noted liberals Dianne Feinstein, Patty Murray, Robert Torricelli and Ron Wyden.

Bipartisanship also contributed to another important tax cut in recent days the elimination of the marriage penalty, which hits 25 million married couples. By a 269-159 margin, the House approved a 10-year, $182 billion marriage-penalty elimination plan. Forty-eight Democrats joined Republicans in voting to abolish it. The Senate soon followed suit. On Tuesday, eight Senate Democrats, including Joe Biden, Mrs. Feinstein, Herb Kohl and Mr. Torricelli, joined 53 Republicans to pass legislation that would slash the marriage penalty. Yesterday, 51 Democrats joined 219 Republicans in passing a compromise bill worked out between House and Senate negotiators that would reduce the marriage penalty by an estimated $90 billion over the next five years. Retroactive to January 1, 2000, the tax cut would increase the standard deduction for married couples from $7,350 to $8,800. It would also begin expanding the lowest 15 percent tax bracket for couples who itemize. In addition, the compromise, bipartisan bill would expand the earned-income tax credit for low-income married couples.

Unless Congress passes a Medicare prescription-drug subsidy acceptable to the president, Mr. Clinton has threatened to veto the reduction in the marriage penalty. He will do so at Mr. Gore's peril.

In yet another bipartisan adventure in tax cutting, the House on Wednesday resoundingly passed legislation that would increase the levels of contributions for individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k) retirement programs. The vote was a lopsided 401 to 25. Maximum annual contribution would increase over three years from $2,000 to $5,000 for both conventional IRAs, which are tax-deductible, and for Roth IRAs, whose contributions are taxable but whose withdrawals are tax free. Maximum annual contributions for 401(k) plans would increase over five years from $10,500 to $15,000. Employers could contribute up to 20 percent in tax-deductible matching funds. The measure would reduce taxes by $17 billion over five years and by $52 billion over 10 years.

Also this week, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the non-Social Security surplus over the next 10 years would total an amazing $2.2 trillion. Beginning to return a relatively small portion of these massive federal tax overpayments is right and necessary. Unfortunately, it seems the Clinton-Gore administration disagrees.

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