- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2001

President Bush, whose campaign pledge to cut taxes across the board was openly ridiculed by Democrats and the press, yesterday signed the sweeping reductions into law during a jubilant White House ceremony.
"Across-the-board tax relief does not happen often in Washington, D.C." beamed Mr. Bush, who was flanked by Republicans and Democrats alike. "In fact, since World War II, it has happened only twice — President Kennedys tax cut in the 60s and President Reagans tax cuts in the 1980s."
"And now its happening for the third time," he added. "Its about time."
Mr. Bush was given an extended standing ovation when he entered the East Room to sign the biggest legislative triumph of his 41/2-month presidency. Members of Congress whooped and hollered in the usually formal chamber as the president took the podium.
"Behave yourself," he deadpanned. "Youre at the White House."
Mr. Bush clearly relished disproving his doubters. The 10-year, $1.35 trillion, across-the-board tax cut is more than five times as large as the $250 billion in targeted tax cuts proposed by former Vice President Al Gore during last years presidential campaign.
"A year ago tax relief was said to be a political impossibility," the president said. "Six months ago, it was supposed to be a political liability. Today, it becomes reality."
As if to tweak Democrats, he added: "We cut taxes for every income taxpayer. We target nobody in; we target nobody out."
The sense of triumph was tempered somewhat by the realization that the tax cut passed the U.S. Senate just before the chamber shifted from Republican to Democratic control. The shift in power will make it harder for Mr. Bush to enact the additional tax cuts he favors in the coming years.
In an effort to smooth the road ahead, the president made sure that six Democratic senators were conspicuously positioned at yesterdays bill-signing ceremony. These included Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Zell Miller of Georgia and John B. Breaux of Louisiana, who were among a dozen Democrats to support the bill.
The new law cuts the lowest federal income-tax rate from 15 percent to 10 percent and the highest rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. It also doubles the child tax credit to $1,000 per child.
The law also eliminates a quirk in the tax code that penalizes married couples.
And it phases out the estate tax, which appropriates large chunks of the estates of wealthy taxpayers upon their deaths.
Finally, the tax relief package will send rebate checks of up to $600 to households in time to pay for back-to-school supplies in September. Mr. Bush also said the extra money will help Americans offset the rising costs of energy.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said the new law will "help struggling families make ends meet."
"The ways to use this refund vary as much as the number of households across America," he said.
According to the Treasury Department, 206,000 rebate checks worth a total of $75 million will be mailed to D.C. residents this year. Nationwide, there will be 92 million checks totaling $39 billion.
Most Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, vehemently opposed the tax cut, insisting it benefits primarily the rich at the expense of lower- and middle-income citizens. But conservative Republicans said the tax-relief package was too timid and backloaded, with many of its provisions not taking full effect until the latter years of the decade.
Rep. Martin Frost, Texas Democrat, called the tax plan a "fiscally irresponsible, gimmick-ridden fraud that shortchanges middle-class Americans … and that sacrifices our ability to address priorities from education and prescription drugs, to defense and paying down the debt."
Although the new tax law remains in effect for only 10 years, there is already a movement in Congress to make it permanent. Bush officials insist no future president would be willing to let the legislation expire because that would amount to a sudden and massive tax increase.
Yesterdays bill-signing ceremony was attended by farmers, small-business owners and representatives of labor unions, all of whom will benefit from the various aspects of the tax-relief package.
The presence of union members served the additional purpose of showcasing the presidents outreach to a traditionally Democratic constituency that the White House hopes to co-opt on selected issues.
The ceremony was also attended by 15 "tax families" that Mr. Bush has enlisted as advocates for tax relief.
He will travel to Iowa today on a tax-cut "victory lap" that showcases other Americans who will benefit from the lower rates.
"We recognize loud and clear the surplus is not the governments money," Mr. Bush said. "The surplus is the peoples money, and we ought to trust them with their own money."
The magnitude of yesterdays bill-signing ceremony was not lost on the president, who pronounced his package "the first broad tax relief in a generation."
"Today is a great day for America," Mr. Bush said. "It is the first major achievement of a new era — an era of steady cooperation, and more achievements are ahead."
In another development, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, reacted angrily to a Democratic National Committee (DNC) effort to use the Bush tax cut for fund-raising purposes.
At its Internet site, the DNC is asking supporters to make a "tax-cut contribution" ranging from $25 to $1,000 to "help kick Republicans out of office" in next years midterm elections.
Mr. DeLay, in a statement released by his office, said "American families have better things to do with a refund of their hard-earned dollars than give it to the Democratic Party, which voted against tax relief."
John Godfrey contributed to this report.

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