- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2001

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman yesterday broke party ranks on President Bush's economic-stimulus legislation.
On "Fox News Sunday," the Connecticut Democrat said it is more important to pass business-investment incentives than to extend unemployment benefits as sought by Senate Democratic leaders.
"Obviously, the most important thing is for the government to act in a way to help the business community, the private sector, grow again. That's the way jobs are created," said Mr. Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee.
He said he believes tax reductions, such as "business depreciation cuts," a 10-day national sales tax holiday, and maybe even a "short-term capital gains tax cut" would help the economy recover from its current doldrums.
Internal friction over what's required to jump-start the troubled economy is surfacing in both parties. Mr. Lieberman's words came as Republicans and Democrats in Congress try to reach consensus on an economic-stimulus package and pass it before Friday, when Congress hopes to adjourn for Christmas.
On CNN's "Late Edition," Mitchell Daniels Jr., director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, advised House Republicans to give up their bid to repeal the corporate alternative minimum tax, which covers 23,000 U.S. businesses.
"There's been absolutely no indication from the Democrats that they could accept anything like that. And in the interest of getting people back to work in this country, it may just have to be jettisoned," Mr. Daniels said.
However, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he's not ready to give ground on that issue.
"I'm not going to put aside anything that I believe in my heart and mind will put somebody back to work," he said.
On yesterday's political talk shows, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle hurled accusations of inflexibility for political gain; yet they held out some hope they will find accord before the year's end.
"I've been at that table now for two weeks. I haven't seen one item where the Democrats have said, 'Yes, we will accept some of your priorities' yet, we have conceded a great deal of ground to the Democrats' misplaced priorities," Mr. Armey said.
Nevertheless, he says he believes the "odds are good" that a deal will be made.
"I believe that there is, at least, a 50-50 chance that we can get a compromise yet this week," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said on ABC's "This Week."
But later, on CNN's "Late Edition," the South Dakota Democrat said "we'll do everything we can to pass a good" economic-stimulus bill. "But we won't pass a bad one," he added.
Mr. Daschle denied Republicans' claims that they have made all the concessions.
"They want you to believe that, but I have yet to see where the evidence is. We haven't seen any movement on the Republican part on any of the benefit proposals that we have had on the table," he said on CNN.
Mr. Daniels said the "president's been the only one showing flexibility right along."
Asked if he believes a deal can be made this week, he said, "There's a deal in there somewhere, and I think only politics has prevented it from happening already."
The main issues blocking the deal are the proposed repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax, acceleration of some of the income tax cuts enacted earlier this year, and health insurance assistance to the unemployed.
On CNN, Mr. Daniels called on Mr. Daschle to "prove he's a leader" and allow a Senate vote on the kind of "balanced" economic-stimulus measure the president has proposed.
Mr. Daschle said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address that "any plan to help the economy must start by helping laid-off workers" through expanded unemployment benefits and assistance in health insurance. He derided tax cuts as a "trickle down" giveaway to rich corporations.
On "Late Edition" yesterday, Mr. Daschle said, "This is really a question: Do we provide benefits? Do we show some way that we have got an understanding of the pain that a million new unemployed workers are experiencing."
Asked on Fox News about the Democratic leadership's plan to add 13 extra weeks of unemployment to the 26 now provided, Mr. Lieberman said that in a "perfect world," the government could do that and provide incentives for businesses.
But he stressed that the country now needs "short-term and limited" business incentives to head off the economic woes that he believes were "deepened" by President Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut.
The Connecticut Democrat said that in talking to out-of-work people around the country, he has found that the "most important help they want is with their health care for their families.
"And I think we're in reach of a bipartisan agreement that can make that happen, I hope we do it," Mr. Lieberman said.

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