- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

The House Ways and Means Committee meets today to write an emergency stimulus bill that would ease taxes for businesses and individuals to help the nation recover from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
After weeks of failed attempts by the White House to negotiate a bipartisan stimulus plan with the Democrats, House Republican leaders have given Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, the green light to quickly put together a bill. It likely will be taken up and passed by the full House by the end of next week.
The bill is expected to call for some acceleration of the income tax rate reductions enacted earlier this year; business tax breaks for expenses to encourage purchases of new machinery and other equipment and to offset revenue losses; and tax rebates tied to Social Security payroll taxes for those workers who pay no income taxes because they do not earn enough, said administration officials and key business leaders advising the tax writers.
The committee's hastily scheduled legislative markup takes place at a time when business analysts say the economic growth rate has plunged into minus territory, shrinking by nearly 1 percent in the third quarter. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce forecasts that the gross domestic product will decline even further in the final three months of the year.
In an attempt to write a bipartisan plan, Mr. Thomas had held out an olive branch to the Democrats by offering to start with "a blank sheet of paper" to consider their proposals.
But when Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, the panel's ranking Democrat, indicated he would offer a substitute to the Republican bill no matter what direction it took, the die was cast for a bill to pass the committee along party lines.
Still, a spokesman for Mr. Thomas said yesterday that "the Democrats will see several of their ideas in his package in an attempt to reach out to them."
Mr. Thomas met this week with Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, the administration's point man on the tax-cut stimulus. The administration and Republicans leaders have decided to enact a bill made up entirely of tax cuts to encourage consumer spending and business expansion, as President Bush called for a week ago.
Democrats are pushing for more spending for those who have lost their jobs since the Sept. 11 attacks, including large and longer unemployment benefits, health care insurance premium payments, plus a broad range of other public works spending. But they said yesterday that they had little or no chance of getting their proposals through the Republican-controlled House.
The Republicans were operating with a "my way or the highway attitude," House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri complained at a news conference yesterday.
But Republican leadership officials said their stimulus bill would contain enough of what some Democrats want to bring several of them over to vote for the bill.
The administration was working on a stimulus plan in the Senate Finance Committee with its chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican. The two men met with Mr. O'Neill late yesterday for the second time this week.
"I've heard them both say that they want to get this done sooner rather than later," a committee spokesman said last night.

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