- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2001

The White House denied a report yesterday that it was considering a delay in the administration's plan to begin phasing out the estate tax.

Larry Lindsey, President Bush's economic adviser, was quoted saying that the estate-tax repeal "might be something you might want to delay," according to a news story that appeared yesterday on the front page of USA Today.

Mr. Lindsey was asked how the administration could keep its tax cut plan from exceeding its $1.6 trillion price tag if the White House decided to seek a larger and more immediate tax-cut stimulus this year. The newspaper reported that Mr. Lindsey told them that "the estate tax could be set aside temporarily."

"But I want to stress, it's a matter of delay, and it's not a delay for 25 years. It's a delay for maybe a year or two," the newspaper quoted him saying.

However, a spokesman for Mr. Lindsey said yesterday that his remarks were misunderstood or taken out of context and that he was not talking about any delay in beginning the repeal process but, rather, about how many years the phase-out period would take.

"One of the things he said was that the phase-out period could be longer, but not by delaying the tax cut," said his spokesman, Edwina Rogers. "He was talking about whether the repeal might take nine years versus eight."

"The president has consistently called for his tax plan to be passed as quickly as possible to get money back into the pockets of the American people and to do that within the plan's $1.6 trillion. To do that we've talked about phasing in aspects of the proposal to accommodate giving a more immediate tax cut boost," this year, said White House spokesman Claire Buchan.

"I think what Larry was talking about was how that could be done. It was not a suggestion, not a proposal. It was an example of how you could phase in a program over time," she said.

Repealing the estate tax is one of the major components in Mr. Bush's tax-cut plan, and a spokesman for House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, said yesterday that the panel was moving ahead on legislation to repeal the tax that has been a top priority of the small-business community.

It would cost $291.5 billion over 10 years to repeal the estate tax.

"Ways and Means could mark up another tax-cut bill as early as Thursday that is likely to include death-tax repeal," a committee official said yesterday.

"We're moving forward with the death-tax repeal because we think it is an important part of the president's overall tax-cut plan," said Terry Holt, chief spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

"The estate-tax repeal that we will eventually consider will look very much like the estate-tax repeal bill that we approved in the past," Mr. Holt said.

The House overwhelmingly approved that bill last year by a vote of 279-136 before it was vetoed by President Clinton. However, the House approval of the bill makes it one of the pieces in Mr. Bush's tax-cut package that attracts the strongest bipartisan support in Congress.

Jim Martin, president of 60 Plus, a senior citizens lobbying group that has been crusading to abolish the tax, said yesterday that he thought "Larry's remarks had been misinterpreted. In my meetings with him, he has been very clear. He has said all along we are going to eliminate the death tax, no ifs, ands or buts."

House and Senate Republican leadership officials said yesterday there was strong support for repeal in Congress, although the way it is phased out may be modified.

"The consensus in the House is that it is central to the overall tax-cut package, but its makeup may be different. Do you phase it in faster or slower," said a House Republican leadership aide.

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