- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001

President Bush yesterday stood firmly behind his $1.6 trillion tax cut as "the right size" and Republican congressional leaders predicted quick approval of the plan, which arrives at the Capitol today.
"For those who want to diminish the size of the tax cut, that would be inadvisable," Mr. Bush said of Democrats who want to slice his plan in half.
"And for those would want to increase the size of the tax cut, it would be inadvisable," the president added, a reference to a proposal by conservatives for another $600 billion in cuts.
"It's the right size," Mr. Bush said of his 10-year proposal. "When I campaigned for meaningful tax relief, I meant it. And [today] I'll submit a plan based upon that, which is exactly what I said on the campaign trail. I look forward to working with Congress to get the plan passed."
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill will deliver the administration's tax-cut proposal to Republican congressional leaders today on Capitol Hill. The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the plan Tuesday, and sources said the panel could approve portions as early as the end of next week.
Top Republicans said a final package could reach the president's desk as early as June.
"The House of Representatives will move that tax bill, and we'll move it quickly," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas.
Among the key features of the president's plan are across-the-board cuts in income-tax rates for all taxpayers, elimination of the estate and gift tax and easing of the "marriage penalty" that causes married couples to pay more taxes than two single wage earners living together.
The plan will not include more than a dozen other less-expensive tax credits and deductions, such as education savings accounts, that Mr. Bush proposed during his campaign. The details of those issue-targeted tax cuts will be revealed later with related spending and policy proposals, a White House official said yesterday.
"The president remains committed to those items," said spokeswoman Claire Buchan.
As he capped three days of events to make good on the central promise of his campaign, Mr. Bush was reunited at the White House yesterday with 21 families he met as a candidate last fall. They represent households that would save an average of $1,600 in federal income taxes under his package.
"The nice thing about this reunion is you don't have any annoying relatives to deal with," Mr. Bush joked. "One of the best parts of the campaign was to meet the hard-working Americans who really make up the backbone of our country. It was our way to put a face on a piece of important public policy."
The president told the families: "You helped me make my case, and now I intend to make good on my promise. I want it to be said that ours is a plan that fulfills a campaign promise."
At the Capitol, House Republican leaders who have been working closely with the White House introduced to reporters their own "tax families" to help sell the plan to the public and pressure reluctant Democrats.
"These are all hard-working families and … they are here for one reason they think their taxes are too high," said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois. "I agree with them."
Some Republicans, frustrated in the past two years by President Clinton's veto of their $792 billion tax-cut package and individual cuts such as the estate tax, were exuberant yesterday as they awaited legislation from a president who wants to cut taxes.
"Over the past few years, attempts at tax relief and tax fairness died at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. "Large bipartisan majorities voted to stop the marriage penalty and end the death tax. But the White House gate was barred against those reforms.
"Today, I am proud to say things have changed," Mr. DeLay said. "Every American who pays taxes deserves relief today, and we now have a Congress and a president who will give it to them."
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in Congress continued their opposition to the Bush tax-cut plan, arguing yesterday that its true total is $2.6 trillion.
"They will use the Social Security and Medicare trust funds for tax cuts," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
Democrats cited an analysis by Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. Mr. Conrad argues that making the cuts retroactive, making certain revisions for the alternative minimum tax and extending tax breaks that are set to expire all combine to add $500 billion to Mr. Bush's plan.
The higher total of $2.1 trillion, which would not be available to pay down the federal debt, would increase the nation's interest payments by another $500 billion, Democrats said.
Therefore, they said, the true total of Mr. Bush's proposal is $2.6 trillion.
Mr. Daschle said Republicans are deliberately low-balling the total and said, "No one is reporting it."
But Mr. DeLay said in an interview that Democrats are trying to focus on "meaningless" numbers to scare the public, undermine support for tax cuts and keep more money for federal spending on their priorities.
"We ought to be looking at the policies of tax relief and tax fairness," Mr. DeLay said. "Those who don't want to cut taxes are naked. They have no political cover from the White House anymore."
The conservative National Taxpayers Union has conducted a study that says Mr. Bush's plan, and even a larger tax cut proposed by some House Republicans, are "clearly moderate in size" compared to President Reagan's tax cut in 1981 and a proposal by President Kennedy in 1963.
Eric Schlecht, NTU's director of congressional relations, said his analysis of Mr. Bush's plan and the $2.2 trillion proposal from House conservatives proves that both are smaller than the packages in 1981 and 1963 when measured as an average percentage of gross domestic product.
The proposal by conservative House Republicans would accelerate much of the president's tax-cut plan, including the rate reductions and a repeal of the estate and gift tax. But it would also expand tax breaks for retirement savings, repeal the alternative minimum tax, reduce the capital-gains tax rate, and repeal the telephone excise tax.
"Our economy needs a bigger, faster pro-growth tax cut," said Rep. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican.

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