- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

The Senate yesterday slogged through another raft of Democratic amendments to a pared-down version of President Bushs tax-cut plan.
"This is not going to get wrapped up very soon," Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, said yesterday morning.
"Were in no rush," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said yesterday afternoon.
The bill includes an across-the-board cut to income-tax rates, tax breaks targeted at married couples, a reduction and eventual repeal of the estate tax, tax incentives for retirement savings, and tax breaks for education spending. It does not include the presidents proposed tax incentives for charitable giving and for research and experimentation, and for the purchase of health insurance.
Republicans had predicted the Senate would pass the bill Monday night with a final agreement between the House and Senate to be finished by today. Those hopes were dashed shortly before midnight Monday when Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, sent the Senate home for the night.
After 12 straight hours of votes yesterday, Mr. Lott again threw in the towel for the day, saying he hoped to meet with Mr. Daschle to reach some agreement and "successfully complete action on this bill."
Speaking to reporters earlier yesterday, Mr. Lott said, "Its important to get this tax-relief package done as soon as possible, without trying to just put a day or a week on it, because it is going to be good for job security and for the economy."
Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, said Democrats are simply proving the conservatives point: "They are reiterating to the American people that they dont want tax cuts."
Mr. Gramm said Republicans will persist even if it means a weekend session before Memorial Day.
"I cant go home and face Dicky Flatt without a tax cut," Mr. Armey said, referring to a constituent he has made famous for his down-home conservative judgments.
Even rumors of a potential party defection by Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont Republican, will not change the final votes outcome, according to Republicans.
A White House aide said Mr. Jeffords has assured Republicans that his decision will not affect the tax-cut bill.
"Thats what I have heard," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.
President Bush urged lawmakers to stop delays and quickly pass the tax cut to give the U.S. economy a "second wind."
"I want the Congress to pass tax relief now. Our nation needs tax relief, our people need tax relief," Mr. Bush told reporters.
"Its time to move," he added. "My message should be to those who believe its in the countrys interest to tie up tax relief. My message is its not in our nations interest. Its time to get the process moving."
Mr. Daschle said, "This is not about delay. What we want is a fair fight."
Republicans chose to curtail debate by bringing up the tax bill under the parliamentary protections afforded by budget reconciliation. Those rules limit debate on the measure to 20 hours, thus preventing a filibuster that would take 60 votes to overcome.
But Democrats are taking advantage of a loophole that says while oral debate might have come to an end, they still have the right to offer amendments.
Amendments ran the gamut. They included a tax credit for energy conservation, a tax credit for hiring homeless veterans, an increase in the amount of income within a proposed 10 percent income-tax bracket, a proposal to send taxpayers a flat $300 rebate check in 2001. Some also tried to reduce the tax cut to provide more spending for education, for Medicare, for the so-called Social Security notch babies and others.
"We didnt come here to be spectators," Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said. "If we dont raise these issues, at least bring them to a vote, were doing a disservice to the American people."
Mr. Durbin said that when the Senate debated President Reagans tax cut in 1981 it spent weeks on the measure, considering more than 100 amendments.
"Our caucus is really fervent on this," Mr. Durbin said.
Some Democrats, though, were tiring.
"My hope is that were closing in on this," Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat, said after his amendment to reduce the tax cut by $150 billion, but increase spending on education failed. "Im ready to vote tonight."
By 6 p.m. last night, the Senate had voted on 34 amendments in just 24 hours.
"Were having a filibuster by amendment," Mr. Lott said.
The closest vote yet was on an amendment offered by Mr. Daschle and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.
The amendment, which failed on a 50-50 tie vote — would have expanded the amount of income subject to the 15 percent bracket while reducing the size of the proposed cut to the top income tax bracket.
Four Democrats voted against the amendment. Four Republicans voted for it.
By 2007, the revision would have added another $325 tax cut for all taxpayers with more than $32,000, but less than $288,350 in taxable income. Those with more than $288,350 would have benefited from the expansion of the 15 percent bracket, but would also have seen their top marginal rate of 39.6 percent reduced only to 38.6 percent instead of the 36 percent proposed by the underlying bill.

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