But Democratic policy advisers say that despite their campaign rhetoric, many of the Bush tax cuts are supported by Democrats, including the $1,000 child tax credit, marriage penalty relief and lower tax rates for middle-income families.
One of the changes in the tax rates that Mr. Bush enacted was a lower 10 percent tax rate for workers at the bottom of the income scale, a tax-cut provision that the Democrats “would not want to eliminate,” a House Democratic staffer said.
“I can’t see Democrats opposing the rates that are being paid at the bottom two-thirds of the tax code. Democrats are for taxing the super-rich, though it is yet to be defined where super-richdom begins,” said Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social policy research group.
Still, Republicans who have worked with Mr. Rangel in the House say they are a little suspicious of his ultimate goals.
“He’s a master politician, but when he talks about everything on the table and tax cuts for the middle class, my eyes begin to widen. When you start targeting tax cuts to a class of people, you are entering the arena of redistribution of wealth,” said former Rep. Jack Kemp, a tax-cut crusader who was the architect of the Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s.
Checks and balances
Senior Democratic advisers say that whatever Mr. Rangel might be planning, major tax and spending changes are unlikely to happen because of a number of institutional obstacles that would be extremely hard for the Democrats to overcome, especially in what is likely to remain a narrowly divided Congress.
“I don’t see any dramatic changes in taxes or dramatic increases in spending if you want to know the truth. A lot of this fear talk is part of the campaign,” said Leon Panetta, former House Budget Committee chairman and Clinton chief of staff.
“Everybody is saying that all of these things will happen, but there will be checks in the system. The fact is that Bush is still going to be president, with his veto, and the Senate, which could be split 50-50, will act as a barrier as well,” Mr. Panetta said.
With his veto power, Mr. Bush would be the biggest obstacle to rolling back any part of the tax cuts, and it would be very difficult for Democrats to win the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto in a narrowly divided House or Senate, former congressional officials said. The Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to break, is another big political hurdle that conservative Republicans say would be used to block Democratic tax-and-spend proposals.
Nevertheless, the power structure on Capitol Hill would shift dramatically from right to far left under Democratic rule if veteran liberal lawmakers take over the chairmanships of committees that would write the tax and spending bills the House and Senate would consider.
How the coming tax-and-spend battle plays out will depend upon “how the White House intends to play its cards” and how much Democrats are prepared to fight for their agenda, said Mr. Reischauer, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
“If push comes to shove, we are going to end up with some significant part of the tax cuts extended. We are not going to revert to the 2000 tax code before Bush. Neither is it likely that we will extend all of the tax cuts that have been enacted since 2000,” he said.
But Republicans such as former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas said that if the Democrats take over, “they will try to find some way to raise taxes to finance their spending programs.”View Entire Story
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