- The Washington Times - Monday, March 5, 2001

The House will vote this week on a tax cut that is straining any semblance of bipartisanship, then adjourn for rest and relaxation at the annual retreat to celebrate you guessed it bipartisanship.
"Hopefully there will be good participation on both sides of the aisle," said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert. "I found that 'bipartisan' sometimes is treating people decently and fairly. That's what we need to move toward."
With the floor vote on President Bush's across-the-board income-tax cuts shaping up as a party-line exercise, the retreat next weekend at the posh Greenbrier resort in West Virginia promises to be more useful than ever. Democrats have been criticizing the size of the administration's $1.6 trillion tax cuts, and the speed with which Republicans have acted, in some of the harshest terms possible.
"This is the most irresponsible legislative act that I have ever seen," House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, said after the House Ways and Means Committee approved the rate cuts last week on a straight party-line vote.
Said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, "This makes a charade out of this show of bipartisanship."
Democrats predicted decades of deficits, prompting House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas to reply dryly, "These are the people that had deficits and never balanced the budget while they were in control of Congress. And yet they're trying to lecture us on fiscal responsibility."
Mr. Hastert, Illinois Republican, accused some Democrats of encouraging a recession for political gain.
"We've been apprised that there's some strategists on the other side that think a recession, for them, would be good politically," Mr. Hastert told reporters. "I'm not saying everybody on the other side of the aisle wants to have a recession, but … there are some strategists who believe that's the right thing to do. We don't want that to happen because we don't think it's good for the American people. We want to stop any type of recession from happening."
Said Gephardt spokeswoman Sue Harvey, "We're not aware of any strategists or consultants who have said anything of the sort."
Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, added: "We hope that Speaker Hastert misspoke when we said some Democrats are praying or looking for a recession. The truth of the matter is that we all seriously want to have the greatest economy that this country can have."
He proceeded to tell reporters that Republicans "don't really care" about Social Security, Medicare and education.
Doubtless this rhetoric is not what Mr. Bush had in mind when he called for a new tone of cooperation in Washington.
The president will turn up the heat on Democrats this week when he promotes his budget and tax cuts in several states whose Democratic senators are up for re-election in 2002.
Mr. Bush will visit Louisiana, home of Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, and South Dakota, home of Sen. Tim Johnson. Both Democrats are up for re-election next year and are viewed as possible votes for Mr. Bush's tax cuts. Vice President Richard B. Cheney promoted the plan last week on South Dakota's biggest talk-radio show for an hour.
Without a Democrat in the White House to veto tax cuts, said a House Republican aide, "it leaves these guys much more exposed and vulnerable than ever before."
Republicans also are putting pressure on Mr. Daschle, who will be up for re-election in 2004. The Republican polling firm of Fabrizio and McLaughlin of Alexandria last week released a poll showing that 53 percent of registered voters in South Dakota believed Mr. Daschle should vote for the president's tax-cut plan and 26 percent said he should vote no.
When the pollsters asked voters if Mr. Daschle "is playing partisan politics by opposing" the president's tax-cut proposal, 51 percent said yes and 41 percent said no. The state Legislature voted late last year to repeal its estate tax.
The state's lone congressman, Republican Rep. John Thune, tied Mr. Daschle when voters were asked whom they preferred for the Senate three years hence. The survey of 400 voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
Mr. Thune, who has become a favorite of House Republican leaders, is widely believed to be interested in running for the Senate seat.
In the Senate, bipartisanship is chugging along at least until Wednesday in the Health, Education and Labor Committee, which will debate Mr. Bush's education agenda this week. Staffers who were working overtime on the legislation late last week reported that Republicans and Democrats were still cooperating on its preparation, in part because of the example set by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, ranking Democrat from Massachusetts.
"He's committed to getting this bill out," said one Republican.


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