- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

A precarious bipartisan coalition on tax cuts withstood attacks from both sides yesterday during the Senates first day of debate on the $1.35 trillion plan.
"This is not going to be the only critical test the bill faces," but for the day the "compromise has been preserved," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, told reporters after the Senate defeated the third of three amendments yesteday.
The Senate will continue debating the measure today, but no further votes are scheduled until Monday, when a vote on final passage is expected.
The plan would cut income-tax rates across the board, increase the $500-per-child tax credit, reduce and eventually repeal the estate and gift taxes, provide tax breaks for married couples and give tax breaks for education expenses.
Mr. Grassley predicted two more major challenges during the full Senate debate: a Democratic amendment that would reduce the 15 percent bracket to 14 percent, while also limiting proposed reductions to upper income-tax rates to one percentage point, and an extension of a current law tax break for research and development that will be offered by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.
The latter would be worth about $50 billion through 2011, and Mr. Grassley said he expects Democrats to vote for the amendment in hopes of driving up the total price tag of the tax cut to $1.4 trillion. That, Mr. Grassley said, would "embarrass" the bills co-author, Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, and drive away conservative Democrats.
Mr. Grassley yesterday also damped down conservative Democratic fears that Republicans in the two houses were secretly cutting a deal. The deal would have effectively left Democrats out of final negotiations on the bill.
The last challenge of the day came in the form of an amendment that would have increased a deduction for college tuition expenses, by cutting back on a proposed reduction of the estate tax.
Mr. Grassley objected to the amendment saying, "I want to protect the bill as much as I can, not so much because of the substance of the bill as much as the process by which this came together."
The amendments author, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, responded that he was "aghast at the implication that anyone who offers an amendment to his grand bill has not thought it through or is derelict in their duty… Im trying to make a wonderful compromise even better."
Mr. Baucus backed Mr. Grassley and warned Mr. Schumer. "If we didnt have this bipartisan compromise, I guarantee you wed have a tax bill on the floor much less to the liking of the senator from New York and virtually every other" Democrat, Mr. Baucus said.
The amendment failed 55-43.

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