- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000

Question from Republicans: Bill Clinton said he wanted to reduce the marriage penalty but now that Republicans have passed a bill to eliminate it entirely, he's promised to veto it. On whose side is Al Gore is he on the side of married couples, or on Bill Clinton's side?
Jim Nicholson, Republican chairman: No one should be penalized by the U.S. government just for saying "I do." But believe it or not, that is exactly what's happening to millions of American couples today because of a quirk in the tax code, they are forced to pay higher taxes if they file jointly than they would have had to pay if they had filed as two single taxpayers $1,400 a year more, on average.
This "marriage penalty" is wrong. Our tax code shouldn't penalize marriage if anything, it should reward marriage, because we as a society have an interest in promoting the stability that marriage creates.
Bill Clinton used to agree with us back in January, when he gave his State of the Union Address, anyway. That night, he promised to introduce legislation to reduce the marriage penalty.
We never saw the legislation. Republicans got tired of waiting, and in February, the Republican leadership in the House moved a bill to eliminate the marriage penalty entirely. Forty-eight Democrats almost one-quarter of all the Democrats in the House voted with Republicans to repeal this unfair tax.
Last week, the Senate took up similar legislation. Again, many Democrats crossed party lines to support the repeal of this unfair tax, and the bill was passed by a margin of 61-38.
But once again, Mr. Clinton has his feet planted firmly on both sides of this issue. Instead of saying he was gratified that Republicans were helping him make good on his promise, he has threatened to veto the legislation when it hits his desk.
Mr. Clinton is fond of saying Al Gore is "the most influential vice president in history." If that's true, Al Gore could walk down the hall in the West Wing and use his vaunted influence to get Mr. Clinton to sign the bill America wants and needs. But he has yet to do so.
So what's the deal, Joe? Is it that Mr. Gore isn't really as influential as Mr. Clinton says meaning that once again, Mr. Clinton has misled the public for political purposes? Or is it that Mr. Gore believes this unfair tax should remain in place taxing people for the "privilege" of marriage? Just whose side is Al Gore on, anyway?
Joe Andrew, Democratic national chairman: For once, the Republicans and Democrats agree on one point: No one should be penalized for saying "I do." Where we disagree, however, is on the specifics. The Republicans' plan gives the most marriage penalty relief to surprise, surprise the wealthiest Americans, even to wealthy couples who aren't affected by the marriage penalty at all.
The Republican plan gives 68 percent of the tax cut to the wealthy those earning $75,000-$200,000 and only 5 percent of the tax cut to working Americans those earning $20,000-$30,000. Where have we seen this brand of irresponsible budgeting before? Republicans are again sacrificing long-term fiscal stability for a tax cut that disproportionately benefits the wealthy.
George W. Bush and the Republicans are proposing nationally the kind of fiscal irresponsibility Mr. Bush has practiced in Texas. His tax cuts for the powerful in Texas led to a budget shortfall and Texas' abysmal rankings for many measures of quality of life in his state.
Vice President Al Gore's marriage tax relief plan, however, benefits those who need the tax cut most without endangering our economic prosperity. Democrats favor marriage penalty tax relief by raising the standard deduction. Married couples would get the same standard deduction as if they remained single and filed separately. Raising the standard deduction to twice that of a single taxpayer would deliver substantial marriage tax relief to middle class families who claim the deduction.
So the answer to your question, Jim, is that Al Gore is on the side of the people. George W. Bush is on the side of the powerful.
When will Republicans realize that not every American runs a Fortune 500 company? Americans want and need substantive legislation that will help them put food on the table and pay the electric bill, not irresponsible tax plans that risk budget surpluses Americans have worked so hard to create.

Jim Nicholson is chairman of the Republican National Committee. Joe Andrew is national chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Jim Nicholson is chairman of the Republican National Committee. Joe Andrew is national chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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