- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

Republicans and Democrats yesterday blamed each other for the failure to pass an economic stimulus bill, with a key Republican lawmaker saying the partisanship displayed by Senate Democratic leaders on that issue is unprecedented.
"On a number of domestic issues, including the stimulus package, I can't remember when I've quite seen such a high degree of partisanship," Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said on CNN's "America's New War."
But Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, denounced an economic stimulus bill pushed by Republicans as a "$270 billion raid on Social Security" that would "stimulate campaign contributions," and not the economy.
This "so-called 'stimulus' bill gives a large, permanent tax break to big corporations, paid for with the payroll tax contributions of hard-working Americans," Mr. Rangel, ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said yesterday in the Democrats' response to President Bush's weekly radio address.
"This bill is a $270 billion raid on Social Security trust funds over the next five years. It has nothing to do with stimulating the economy and everything to do with stimulating campaign contributions," said Mr. Rangel, who accused some Republicans of "wrapping the flag around special interests' agendas" at a time when patriotic fervor is strong in this country.
Mr. Bush has been pressing for passage of a measure to jump-start the slumping economy. But it is not certain that will happen, as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, has refused to allow a vote on a compromise economic stimulus bill supported by the president, Republicans and several swing Democrats.
Mr. Bush said the Senate had enough votes to approve the plan, and senators agreed the bill would receive at least 53 votes. But Mr. Daschle said he would not allow the Senate to vote on the bill, largely because it did not create a federal entitlement for the unemployed to receive health insurance coverage.
Republicans charge that the Senate Democratic leader's inaction on the measure is politically motivated. They say Democrats recognize an ailing economy might help their chances in congressional elections next year.
The criticism of the Senate Democratic leadership by Mr. McCain, a former rival of Mr. Bush and an outspoken critic of the president on issues such as campaign finance reform, reveals the deep partisan divisions on Capitol Hill over the economic stimulus package.
In his radio address yesterday, Mr. Bush said he was "disappointed the Senate was not able to pass legislation to get our economy growing again and to help workers who have lost their jobs.
"I'm hopeful that the positive spirit of bipartisan accomplishment that guided much of this year's success will prevail when Congress returns early next year," the president said.
On Friday, Mr. Bush ruled out calling Congress back early from its month-long recess to pass a stimulus package.
He also told Reuters and other news agencies in an interview that stimulus legislation may not be needed because the economy is showing signs of recovery, and that he may act unilaterally to help the unemployed.
Liberal Democrats, such as Mr. Daschle and Mr. Rangel, have repeatedly attacked the Republican proposals for business investment incentives that Republicans say are necessary to create jobs.
Of particular concern have been efforts by some Republican leaders to repeal the corporate minimum tax, levied on 23,000 American businesses.
The House, which passed an economic stimulus bill several months ago, ended the year by passing the compromise measure endorsed by the president.
If approved by the Senate, that measure would ease but not abolish the corporate minimum tax.
The compromise bill also would provide 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits for those laid off since the recession began in March; would accelerate the cut in the 27 percent income tax rate to 25 percent, making it effective on Jan. 1; would allow businesses to write off 30 percent annually of the cost of new investment for the next three years; and would give rebates of up to $600 for lower-income workers who did not qualify for refund checks earlier this year.
But Mr. Rangel made it clear yesterday he is not impressed. "Millions of laid-off workers are in need this holiday season. Many families do not have access to adequate unemployment insurance or health insurance, and yet the Republicans have held hostage every penny of relief until the Senate passes their special interest tax breaks," he said yesterday in his radio address.
But Republicans counter that the compromise economic recovery plan the president supports would provide health insurance for more unemployed workers than the Senate Democrats' proposal, and would do it more quickly. The bill would provide $13 billion over two years in tax credits to enable the unemployed to pay up to 60 percent of the premiums of any health care plan.
Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, was asked yesterday on CNN what will be required for economic recovery. "We're going to have to spend more, and I think there will have to be some tax cuts to generate some economic activity. And I think it's going to be a difference of whether it's more spending or more tax cuts," he said.
Either way, Mr. Shays said, "You're going to chop away at that surplus" and may be forced to "start to use some Social Security reserves to get our economy moving."
Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, who also appeared on CNN, said he predicts Democrats will not support an economic stimulus bill "unless it includes help for the unemployed, an extension of health benefits for those who recently lost their jobs, and tax benefits that go to lower- and middle-income" Americans, rather than "the rich."
But Mr. Shays says he believes significant progress has been made on the bill that was passed by the House. "My suspicion is we will have a stimulus package in March," he said.

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