- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2001

House Majority Leader Dick Armey said yesterday he will press for tax cuts in excess of the administration's $1.6 trillion plan, despite President Bush's insistence to go no higher.

"We need to send a signal to Americans that help is on the way," the Texas Republican said in advance of a crucial House vote on tax cuts tomorrow. "I think we can convince the White House to go along."

Meanwhile, Democrats bitterly criticized Republican leaders yesterday as they anticipated an effort to prevent them from submitting a smaller tax-cut bill on the House floor tomorrow.

"The strong-arm tactics and the approach that is now being used by the administration is clearly backfiring," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "Obviously the House leadership believes they've got the green light from the administration to take this approach, and I think that's disappointing."

But a House Republican leadership aide said late yesterday that a decision on allowing a Democratic alternative won't be made until today.

Mr. Armey, the second-ranking House Republican, did not specify a dollar amount for extra tax cuts. But he urged action on bills to encourage retirement savings estimated at $50 billion over 10 years and to allow businesses to write off more of the cost of purchasing computer software.

"We do really need to look at what we can do to move the economy along at a better pace," Mr. Armey told reporters. "People will respond to the news [of deeper tax cuts]. That will affect their behavior and their confidence level."

While Mr. Armey has been lobbying the White House for deeper tax cuts from the outset of the new Bush administration, his renewed call comes as the president is traveling around the nation in an attempt to win over Senate Democrats who argue that his $1.6 trillion proposal is too large and fiscally irresponsible.

Mr. Bush yesterday took his tax-cut message to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, promoting his plan as a necessary stimulus to economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurship.

"I'm reminded about the truth when I come to a place like this. The entrepreneurial spirit is what America is all about," Mr. Bush said.

Meanwhile, a group of about 30 conservative House Republicans, led by Rep. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, will introduce either today or tomorrow a bill calling for $2.1 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.

The House is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the largest portion of Mr. Bush's tax-cut plan to lower income-tax rates across the board by $950 billion over five years. By 2006, the current five tax brackets of 39.6 percent, 36 percent, 31 percent, 28 percent and 15 percent would be lowered into four 33 percent, 25 percent, 15 percent and 10 percent.

House Republicans also are determined to address smaller portions of the administration's plan, including phasing out the estate tax and easing the so-called marriage penalty, later this spring. The total cost of the president's plan is $1.6 trillion over 10 years, which Mr. Bush has repeatedly described as "just right."

Senate Republicans said yesterday that a higher tax cut is possible, but they disagreed on whether it is politically feasible.

"I don't think that is extreme, I think it can be justified," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, of Mr. Armey's comments.

But Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said it is unlikely the $1.6 trillion proposal will grow higher.

"Sure it's possible, but probable? I don't think so," Mr. Stevens said.

House Republican leaders met late yesterday behind closed doors to discuss whether to allow House Democrats to offer an alternative tax-cut bill on the floor. No decision will be reached until today.

A House Republican leadership aide predicted Democrats would be allowed to offer a substitute bill as an amendment.

Democrats say Republican leaders are worried about losing centrist Republicans to a smaller Democratic proposal. But Mr. Armey said yesterday that Rep. Bill Thomas, California Republican, had crafted a bill on behalf of the Bush administration that was aimed at "moderate Republicans and serious Democrats."

"I'm not sure that the majority of Democrats want to cut taxes," Mr. Armey said.

There was some consternation in Republican ranks yesterday over Mr. Armey's call for larger tax cuts, just two days before what is expected to be a contentious, party-line vote in the House. One Republican aide said the majority leader's comments were "not a strategy."

But Mr. Armey said continued poor economic forecasts have impressed on him the need for tax cuts larger than Mr. Bush's $1.6 trillion threshold.

• John Godfrey contributed to this report.

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