- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

America's all-out war against the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon could rally new support for key parts of President Bush's stalled agenda in Congress, from energy development to missile defense.
One of the arguments Republican leaders made after the suicidal attacks Tuesday on Washington and New York is that the United States will need a strong economy and military to wage war effectively, and that the Republican Party's agenda needs major proposals to spur economic growth and modernize the nation's defenses to combat future terrorism.
As a result of mounting evidence that the economy was becoming progressively weaker, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert made cutting the capital gains taxes and other business tax breaks a top priority in the fall sessions, and the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee is working on a bill that could be marked up by the end of this week.
Most House Democrats have strongly opposed cutting capital gains taxes, but the national uncertainty after the deadly attacks Tuesday — and the fear that they could tip the economy into recession — could result in new support for economic growth measures, Republican leadership officials said.
"A strong economy is one of the key weapons of war," Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, said last week.
"We have talked about the need for economic security in light of Tuesday's attacks. We need to bolster our economy, and Thomas is going to put together a bill to stimulate the economy," said Christin Tinsworth, a spokesman for Mr. Thomas.
Republican leaders said earlier this year that the administration's fast-track trade authorization bill, another measure languishing in the House, likely would not come up this fall because of strong Democratic opposition.
But that situation seems to have changed in the past week. Republican officials believe the nation's move toward preparations for a drawn-out war against terrorism could accelerate the bill through the House.
Mr. Thomas met privately with key Democrats about the stalled trade bill, and he and his top aides now think there is a chance to move a bill out of committee soon that will be helped by a new political unity on Capitol Hill to support the war effort. The administration has argued that the trade bill is critical to the nation's future economic growth and thus to national security.
"There is a need to rally around the president in troubled times like these," Ms. Tinsworth said. "People need time to digest what has happened. When the time comes for these discussions, I'm hopeful that there will be more support for those policies to help strengthen our economy."
The president's top aides also hoped that his House-passed energy bill, a measure that would allow drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, would move through the Senate. The bill, which the administration contends would help make the United States less dependent on foreign oil, has found bipartisan support in the Senate Energy Committee, but Democratic leaders have shown no sign of bringing it up for action.
"That could change after [the Tuesday] attacks. This is a national security issue," said a Senate Republican leadership official.
Mr. Bush's proposal to boost spending for an anti-missile defense system is also likely to win new support because of a national feeling of vulnerability from future terrorist attacks.
The president has asked for $8.3 billion for research and testing in 2002 to develop a missile shield. That amount would be substantially more than the $3 billion spent this year, and Democrats want to cut that request by more than $1 billion.
Pollsters cite strong public support for an anti-missile network, and supporters say it is only a matter of time when some terrorist group or rogue nation will be able to launch a biological, chemical or even nuclear attack with a short-range missile.
"We've moved from the hypothetical to the real," said pollster John Zogby. "If the terrorists can do this with commercial airliners, then God help us if it's a rogue nation supporting terrorists with high-tech missile weaponry."

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