- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2001

Vice President Richard B. Cheney predicts that the administration's $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal will get through both houses of Congress with votes to spare.
But if the final tally in the Senate is close enough, he says, he would "really enjoy casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate."
"I'll bet most of them vote for it on final passage," Mr. Cheney told editors and reporters of The Washington Times at a luncheon Friday in the Ceremonial Room in the Old Executive Office Building. "I would really enjoy casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate if the president's tax package were to tie. I think, though, when it comes right down to it, I think we'll have more than 50 votes for it."
"I don't know that we'll get to 60, … but in the end I think we're going to get most of what we wanted," Mr. Cheney said.
The vice president also said a proposal to revamp campaign finance laws offered by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, is unacceptable in its current form.
Mr. Cheney, however, is clear on his intentions to work hard to get the tax cut through Congress quickly.
"I don't have any qualms about trying to move it in a reasonably aggressive fashion. If it's going to have any positive impact in terms of the current downturn in the economy, we need to get through it fairly fast," he said.
President Bush last week proposed a fiscal year 2002 budget blueprint that increases overall government spending by 4 percent down from 8 percent last year. As part of his plan, Mr. Bush proposes to set aside billions to secure Social Security and Medicare, pay off $2 trillion in federal debt and revamp the tax code, and return $1.6 trillion to taxpayers by cutting the top 39.6 percent rate to 33 percent and creating a new 10 percent bottom bracket as opposed to the current 15 percent. Mr. Bush's package will remove more than 6 million Americans from the tax rolls.
The vice president is playing a large role in lobbying members of Congress for the tax-cut plan, which was voted out of the House Ways and Means Committee on a party-line vote last Thursday, the day it was received.
"I've spent a lot of time up there… . We put together a fairly aggressive program of my going up and meeting with various groups," including the "Blue Dogs," a narrow coalition of conservative Democrats who are opposed to the more liberal factions of the party.
Mr. Cheney, who has offices in the Senate and the House, has been lunching with Republicans once a week and "lots of times I'm back up there a second time or a third time during the week."
While Mr. Bush wants to attract Democratic votes, the Republicans control both chambers of Congress and could enact the tax-cut proposal without Democratic support, provided there are no Republican defections. Two liberal Republican senators Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and James M. Jeffords of Vermont have hinted they may oppose it.
But Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, backs the plan and last week joined Mr. Bush in calling for an end to the "class warfare" they say Democrats engage in each time a tax-cut proposal moves through Congress.
"I'm a big fan of his," Mr. Cheney, smiling, said of Mr. Miller. "He's had the courage of his convictions to stand up and look at something and say, 'I agree with that, it's important.' "
The vice president said Mr. Miller's support may make it "easier for the next [Democrat] to do the right thing."
With all members of the House up for re-election in 2002, their votes on a tax-cut plan that would let the average family of four keep an extra $1,600 a year in income may be crucial to their survival on the Hill. Figuring out who to lobby, the vice president said, will be easy.
"We had the votes last year on the marriage penalty and the death tax that passed and then [former President Bill] Clinton vetoed the bills. So there's a track record there to sit down and look at members who voted for those," he said. "I would think it would be hard this time around to vote against something you just voted for last year."
In February 2000, the House voted 268-157 with 48 Democrats joining all Republicans to provide $182 billion in tax breaks for married couples over the next decade. The vote in the Senate was 61-38, with eight Democrats joining all but one Republican.
On the death tax, which would eliminate taxes on estates that often force inheritors to sell off property, the House in June 2000 voted 279 to 136, with 65 Democrats joining all Republicans. The Senate approved the measure with nine Democrats joining 50 Republicans.
Among Democratic senators who voted for both tax-relief packages was Max Cleland of Georgia, who Mr. Cheney said will merit some cajoling or maybe more.
"We'll also look at those members who come from states where maybe there's a split delegation and the Republican has already signed on and committed, or where we ran especially strong. Think about Georgia. You've got Zell Miller signed on. We carried Georgia by a comfortable margin," Mr. Cheney said.
"We hope Max Cleland would think about it," the vice president said.
Leading Democrats on Capitol Hill have derided Mr. Bush's plan as offering only "a new Lexus for every millionaire."
"If you're a millionaire, under the Bush tax cut, you get a $46,000 tax cut, more than enough to pay for this Lexus," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said last month at an outdoor press event which featured the luxury automobile. The South Dakota Democrat also held aloft a new muffler saying, "But if you're a typical working person, you get $227, and that's enough to buy this muffler."
Democrats also charge the proposed tax cut will return the country to the "bad old days of Ronald Reagan," a charge that makes the vice president bristle.
"I just think that's a total misrepresentation, first of the Reagan days, and secondly of what we're doing here… . He made a couple of decisions that I think were absolutely crucial, were correct, and contributed in major ways to getting us to where we are today," he said. That includes rebuilding the military, ending the Cold War and laying the groundwork for tax reform.
"Those fundamental changes in the tax code in the early '80s were in fact responsible for a lot of the prosperity we've enjoyed over the last 20 years," the vice president said.
Mr. Cheney rebuked Democrats for clouding the debate by using budget numbers that he says are simply not true.
"If we're going to proceed forward I think we do need to be appropriately cautious in terms of making statements that simply aren't accurate," he said.
On campaign finance reform, Mr. Cheney said he cannot support the McCain-Feingold bill cosponsored by Mr. McCain and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat.
"What we have said about campaign finance reform, what the president said and campaigned on, is that he's prepared to support an acceptable bill… . the McCain-Feingold bill as introduced doesn't meet those criteria… . He wants to see some changes in it," the vice president said.
Mr. Cheney said government-imposed limitations on political activity has "always been a pet peeve of mine." But he said he would support whatever compromise Mr. Bush brokers.
"I don't set policy in the administration. The president does. The president's made clear his views and I support his position. What I get to do in return for serving is I get to put my views on the table and make my case and my arguments," Mr. Cheney said.
He added: "But in the end he makes the decisions and I salute smartly and do everything I can to help him succeed on his views."

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