- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

The political machinations involved in President George W. Bush's proposal to refund a relatively small portion ($1.6 trillion) of the massive tax overpayments ($5.6 trillion) projected over the next 10 years have become truly bizarre in recent days.

Democrats in the House and Senate have become utterly apoplectic over the fact that the Republican-controlled House voted on the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's tax plan. On Thursday, 10 Democrats and one independent joined a unanimous Republican caucus to produce a 32-vote margin of victory (230-198). During the next five years, according to the House plan, the current top rates of 39.6 percent and 36 percent would be gradually reduced to 33 percent. The current 31 percent and 28 percent rates would fall to 25 percent. A new 10 percent rate would be established below the 15 percent rate, which will not change.

Democrats acted as though the issue had been rammed through the House without any debate. Where, one might ask, have they been since Dec. 1, 1999, when Mr. Bush unveiled his tax-reduction plan? The plan has been debated virtually nonstop, and for the first time since 1954, the tax-cutting Republican Party controls the White House and both chambers of Congress. Surely that entitles the president to have an up-or-down vote. Moreover, it wasn't as though the Democrats were gagged. Nobody deprived them of offering their tax plan, which was rejected in a lopsided 273-155 vote. Inexplicably, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt bitterly complained that the two votes in the House had "killed bipartisanship." In fact, Mr. Gephardt merely revealed that his version of bipartisanship would have required the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress to embrace the Democratic plan.

While the House was attending to Mr. Bush's proposal in Washington, the president was traveling the country seeking popular support for his plan from voters in states represented by Democratic senators, some of whose votes he hopes to receive. "One house down and now the Senate to go," Mr. Bush exclaimed from North Dakota Thursday evening. The next day he spoke in South Dakota and Louisiana. All six senators representing the Dakotas and Louisiana are Democrats, but Mr. Bush was overwhelmingly elected president in each of those states. The president also plans to press his case in Georgia, Arkansas and Nebraska. Reacting to Mr. Bush's travels last week, Senate Assistant Minority Leader Harry Reid had the audacity to declare that the president's strategy was "so tacky." Really? As a matter of fact, Mr. Bush received more votes from each of those six states the Dakotas, Louisiana, Georgia, Nebraska and Arkansas than nine of the 10 Democratic senators representing them.

Meanwhile, back inside the Beltway, the latest fiscal gizmo has surfaced the so-called "trigger." Five "moderate" Republican senators have joined with six "moderate" Democratic senators in proposing that tax cuts be halted in any year the federal government fails to reach its debt-reduction target. In other words, the more Congress fails to control spending, the more it will be rewarded with tax windfalls. Mind you, this "trigger" idea comes from members of a body that repeatedly blew holes through numerous spending caps in recent years; that lacked the guts to sequester spending when the Gramm-Rudman deficit targets were repeatedly missed; and that failed utterly to deliver the 3-for-1 spending cuts Congress promised Ronald Reagan in 1982 in exchange for a tax increase. If these "moderate" senators are so enamored with the idea of enforcing a "trigger," let them do so on the spending side of the budget ledger.


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