- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

The Senate yesterday passed 62-38 its version of an 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax-cut plan, ending a three-day marathon of votes and sending the measure immediately to a House-Senate conference for a final bill to be negotiated.
"A bipartisan majority has worked together in support of this package and its success is the best news taxpayers have had in years," Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, said yesterday.
The bill passed with the support of all 50 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
The Democrats were Max Baucus of Montana, John B. Breaux of Louisiana, Jean Carnahan of Missouri, Max Cleland of Georgia, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Zell Miller of Georgia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey.
While Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont Republican, voted with Democrats on some of the 54 amendments considered during the debate, he backed the bill on final passage and has assured Republican leaders that any party switch will not interfere with the bills final passage.
Whatever Mr. Jeffords does, it will not take effect until after "the presidents signature is on the bill," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican, said Mr. Jeffords had told him.
House and Senate negotiators met for about 90 minutes last night, but made no real progress, participants said. They still plan, however, to send a final version of the bill to the president by Memorial Day, Mr. Nickles said.
"The economy needs a shot in the arm, so I call on the House and the Senate to reach an agreement on the final tax-relief package this week," President Bush said at the White House yesterday.
"The sooner the Congress completes its work, the sooner the American people will have their own money in their own pockets to save and invest as they see fit. Our economy cannot afford any further delays."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley warned against moving too quickly.
"I know that theres a lot of pressure to get it done early," the Iowa Republican said. "But were dealing with very important public policy, and we cant do it in a sloppy fashion."
Mr. Baucus and Mr. Breaux were included in last nights talks, but Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, was left out.
"I must not have gotten the message," Mr. Rangel deadpanned as he tried unsuccessfully to enter the closed-door talks.
Republicans had hoped the Senate would pass its version of the bill late Monday night, shortly after time for oral debate on the measure had ended. But Democrats stumbled upon the strategy of "filibuster by amendment."
The tactic lasted from Monday evening through yesterday afternoon. That is when Republicans and Democrats agreed to a package of about 20 amendments and Democrats let the bill come to a final vote.
Amendments in that package include:
* An immediate deduction for the health-insurance costs of the self-employed.
* An increase of the adoption tax credit to $10,000 for special-needs children.
* A tax credit for employers who provide child-care assistance.
* Tax incentives for conservation easements.
Even Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, who has opposed the bill from the start and voted against it yesterday, shoe-horned a farm tax break into the final changes.
House and Senate negotiators must decide next what to keep, what to whittle down and what to jettison.
There is broad agreement that the measure would reduce most if not all individual income-tax rates, with a new 10 percent rate on some initial increment of income.
The bill is also certain to include a reduction in the estate and gift taxes if not an outright repeal, an increase in the $500-per-child credit, and tax breaks targeted at married couples.
Beyond that, conservative Republicans in the House and Senate have said they would like to drop most of the provisions added to win the support of liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate.
"We urge you to make across-the-board reductions in income-tax rates your top priority," Rep. Patrick J. Toomey Jr., Pennsylvania Repub]lican, and about 40 other conservatives in the House wrote in a letter to Mr. Bush.
Fifteen conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans responded with their own letter, warning that they "would not vote for a conference report that does not include or differs significantly from Senate-passed versions of the refundable child credit, tax breaks for married couples, including earned income tax credit provisions, alternative minimum tax and pension and education proposals."
Mr. Lott told reporters yesterday, "Let me assure you that our senators on the Finance Committee that have worked with us in this effort, Senator Jim Jeffords and Senator Olympia Snowe, will be incorporated in the proceedings."
Mr. Jeffords and Mrs. Snowe were two of the five Republicans that signed the bipartisan letter warning against changing the Senate-passed bill.
Still, Mr. Lott warned, "We cant do everything that was in the House bill and in the Senate bill with the amount of money we have."
He said that some provisions might be brought up in later legislation and some might be reduced in value.
The House this year has passed well over $1.6 trillion in tax cuts and Mr. Bushs proposal is now estimated to top $1.8 trillion.
The Senate bill, targeted more to lower-income families, officially meets the $1.35 trillion target set in the budget resolution approved by Congress earlier this year.
But some, including House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, say some provisions in the Senate bill have been contorted to keep their value down, making them impractical from a policy standpoint.


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