- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

Democrats who backed President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut are not having second thoughts, despite the attacks of their party's leadership.
"No, she hasn't changed her mind on the tax cut," said Tom Wyche, spokesman for Missouri Sen. Jean Carnahan, one of 12 Senate Democrats who had joined 46 Republicans in voting for the bill, which resulted in the mailing of 95 million rebate checks to taxpayers.
Montana Sen. Max Baucus is not second-guessing his pro-tax-cut vote either, according to his spokesman, Michael Siegel, and a spokesman for Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson called the tax rebate "probably the best step we've taken to get the economy moving again."
Some Democrats have been wincing over Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe's vehement criticisms of the Bush tax cut.
"When [Mr. McAuliffe] puts out statement after statement, TV ad after TV ad, railing against the tax cut, whom does he think he's hurting?" Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, complained earlier this week. "Those [12] moderate Democrats who voted for the tax cut, that's who."
"What McAuliffe is doing politically is probably hurting some Democrats who may need help getting re-elected," said Charlie Straub, spokesman for Ohio Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., one of 28 House Democrats who had joined the Republican majority in voting for the tax cut.
Mr. McAuliffe seized upon a recent Congressional Budget Office forecast that predicted lower federal revenue than previously expected, using the CBO report to blame the Bush tax cut for reducing budget surpluses.
"People are sick of the blame game, and to the extent that we Democrats play it, we increase the cynicism of the public," said Paul Goldman, a Democratic strategist and former Virginia Democratic Party chairman and political adviser to former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat.
"[Cynicism] benefits the Republicans, because our constituents — more so than Republicans — tend to believe that government can do good things," said Mr. Goldman.
"And the more cynical they become, the more they drop out," he added.
Mr. Nelson, another Democrat who voted for the May 24 tax-cut compromise sought by Mr. Bush, "agrees with Senator Miller that the tax cut is not the issue here," said his spokesman, David DiMartino.
Mrs. Carnahan's spokesman said the Missouri senator, who is up for re-election next year, said she "is not interested … in pointing fingers and complaining about who spilled the milk. She would rather that we work to find solutions to make sure we are meeting our priorities."
Mr. Baucus also rejects Mr. McAuliffe's blaming the tax cut, rather than a slowing economy, for the declining revenues in the CBO forecast. Mr. Baucus "feels there is no Monday morning quarterback who could have predicted such a dramatic worsening of the economy," said his spokesman.
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt also has claimed that the $1.35 trillion tax reduction, to be phased in over 10 years, is responsible for making anticipated budget surpluses to shrink to the vanishing point.
Diminished tax revenues, the report said, could force the government to use part of the Social Security trust fund to pay for federal spending.
But Mr. Nelson is one of those Democratic senators who takes an opposite tack from the party leadership. He believes "the reason we are in this situation is that the economy is faltering," said Mr. DiMartino.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat, does not regret her vote for the tax cut, despite party leaders who claim the CBO report shows that tax cuts are leading to a "raid" on Social Security and Medicare.
"No, the CBO has not caused her to change her mind since she voted for the tax cut," said Lincoln spokesman Drew Gooesel.
Despite the criticism of Mr. Bush by Mr. McAuliffe and other Democratic leaders, none has gone so far as advocating that the tax cut be repealed.
On Sunday, for example, Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, considered one of the party's top presidential prospects, dodged several questions about rolling back the cuts.
Instead, he said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that Mr. Bush should simply put the whole budget up for renegotiation with Democrats this fall.
Most Democratic aides said they would be surprised if any Democratic lawmakers who voted for the tax cut would now turn around and, as one aide put it privately, "tell their constituents, 'Yeah, I want to raise your taxes because of a [CBO] forecast.'"
Democrats who voted for the tax cut had, in fact, already laid the groundwork with their constituents.
"Most people in Missouri understand Senator Carnahan voted for the cuts because she believes it was the right thing to do and because she wants to improve the economic circumstances of the people of her state," her spokesman said yesterday.
Jeff Bjornsad, chief of staff to Rep. Rick Larsen, Washington Democrat, said his boss "voted for the tax cuts because he thought it was a good compromise."
And the new CBO budget projections, rather than confirming Democratic leaders' contention that the cuts were a mistake in the first place, illustrate that "we have to tighten our belt on spending to make sure we don't dip into the Social Security trust funds," he said.
"My boss feels that blatant partisanship on either side is not going to help us balance the federal budget," said Mr. Bjornsad.


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