- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Congressional leaders huddled yesterday with business executives and labor chiefs on Wall Street as lawmakers hurriedly try to craft a plan to revive the slumping national economy with a new round of tax cuts.
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt and the top Republican and Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee discussed with business leaders a package of up to $75 billion that President Bush wants to consist entirely of tax cuts.
Mr. Hastert said there was "near unanimous opinion in the room" that Congress should adopt a plan "that promotes pro-growth tax initiatives." Democrats are pushing for the plan to include more federal spending on infrastructure.
"While not ruling any particular items in or out, we agreed that the benefits of these tax cuts must kick in sooner, rather than later," Mr. Hastert said. "In particular, we openly discussed the benefits of accelerating the across-the-board rate cuts already law, making sure low- and moderate-income workers get tax relief, passing tax incentives for investment, depreciation costs, research and development, and eliminating the alternative minimum tax on America's businesses."
Mr. Hastert said reducing business taxes would allow companies to keep more employees on the payroll. The meeting was arranged by New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso.
Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill today united on the administration's military campaign against Afghanistan but still struggling to resolve disputes over the economic stimulus plan, airline security and trade authority for Mr. Bush.
"Military action against the perpetrators of terrorism is justified and necessary due to the intransigence of the Taliban leadership of Afghanistan," said Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, chief spokesman for the House Democrats. "President Bush rightly stated that our patience will be our strength in the war against terrorism. We have resolved ourselves for this fight, and now must see it through."
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration has built an alliance against Afghanistan so skillfully that the Taliban regime inevitably will be toppled.
"The Taliban is effectively already gone," Mr. Biden said on CBS' "Early Show." "It's lost the support of all the surrounding neighbors. It does not have any place to go. And the question now is for me just a matter of how long, not if, and what replaces it."
The House and Senate also are poised to approve this week a package of counterterrorism measures sought by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
It includes greater flexibility for the FBI to wiretap phone conversations of suspected terrorists and invests it with authority to detain illegal immigrants for seven days without filing charges.
But lawmakers also must try again to resolve several more divisive issues that eluded solutions last week.
A group of conservative House Republicans, concerned that discussions to stimulate the economy call for too much new spending, and possibly a boosting of minimum wage, are threatening to pull their support for the so-called "fast-track" trade authority for Mr. Bush. The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to vote on the trade legislation this week.
Conservatives such as House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, want Congress to focus the stimulus package on tax cuts to encourage consumer spending and business investment.
Lawmakers also continue to grapple with a plan to increase security at airports around the nation. Democrats in Congress favor a plan to make baggage screeners federal employees, but many Republicans are seeking alternatives, such as giving the federal government the option to run security at some airports.

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