- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia will join Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, in co-sponsoring President Bush's 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax-cut plan, an aide confirmed yesterday.
"Senator Miller campaigned on the fact that he would be bipartisan in the Senate just as he was bipartisan when he was governor and that he would be a tax-cutting senator just as he was a tax-cutting governor. This was a great opportunity to do both," Mr. Miller's press secretary, Joan Kirchner, said yesterday.
In addition to a variety of cuts to each individual income-tax bracket, Mr. Bush promised to ease the marriage penalty, repeal the estate and gift taxes, make the research and development tax credit permanent, increase individual and business deductions for charitable giving, and expand the tax breaks for education savings accounts.
Larry Neal, spokesman for Mr. Gramm, would not discuss details of a news conference scheduled for his boss today, nor would he comment on the news of Mr. Gramm's co-sponsorship with Mr. Miller, which was first reported on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Asked later on that program for comment, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said it was the first he had heard of it.
"But I am not surprised because [Mr. Gramm] has been an ardent supporter of the tax plan that President Bush supports and wants to initiate it," Mr. Card said. "I'm thrilled if Senator Gramm has found a Democratic co-sponsor."
During the campaign, Mr. Bush said the plan would lower taxes by $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years, under the assumption that none of the tax cuts would actually take effect in the first year.
Assuming the cuts are in full effect for 10 years, taxes would be reduced by $1.6 trillion, according to an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Democrats yesterday repeated their contention that the plan is too costly and that the first duty of Congress is to prepare a budget that ensures fiscal discipline and reduction of the national debt.
Democrats say that interest costs from using the surplus for tax cuts and not debt reduction would bring the total 10-year tab of Mr. Bush's plan to $1.9 trillion.
"The one that President Bush is proposing is much too large and may spend money that we really don't have," Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, said on ABC's "This Week."
Democrats, backed by estimates generated in the final week of the Clinton administration, argue that the Republican projection of a $2.6 trillion federal budget surplus during the next decade is dangerously optimistic. That projection, which does not include excess revenues being generated by the Social Security and Medicare programs, should more realistically be $1.6 trillion, Democrats contend.
Mr. Bush's staff members have called the Clinton administration estimates biased, saying they underestimate the current economic slowdown but understate growth in later years.
This fall, Mr. Miller won election to a four-year term in the Senate with 55 percent of the vote after having been appointed to the Senate in July by Georgia's Democratic Gov. Roy E. Barnes.
Mr. Miller's predecessor, Sen. Paul Coverdell, Georgia Republican, died in office of a stroke.
Mr. Miller served two terms as governor from 1991 to 1998 and was one of the few Democratic incumbents to win re-election in 1994 when Republicans swept elections nationwide. When he left office in 1999, his popularity poll numbers were at 85 percent.
Mr. Miller's decision to back a tax cut plan with Mr. Gramm is better news than some Democrats had expected last week.
With rumors of a "major" announcement to come from Mr. Miller's office, some worried that the conservative Democrat might switch parties.
A Democratic aide said that factors adding credence to the rumor were Mr. Miller's decision to support John Ashcroft's nomination to be attorney general and the fact that Mr. Miller had retained staff from Mr. Coverdell's office, including Mr. Coverdell's chief of staff.
A member of Mr. Miller's staff, who requested anonymity, said the experience was frustrating. The staff member said Democrats had taken a display of bipartisanship and assumed it could only be a precursor to a defection.
Mrs. Kirchner would not comment but said simply that Mr. Miller "has no intention at all of switching parties."

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