- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

If anyone doubted America's resiliency and toughness in times of crisis, they had to be reassured by the spirit of unity and patriotism that surged across the land, as President Bush rallied the nation and set it on a course to recovery and revival.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, as New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says, we're going to emerge from this stronger, better and more determined than ever to see that this tragedy never happens again.

What has especially struck me is the new spirit of unity that has swept through the Congress. This unity is going to result in some long-overdue changes and improvements in national security and economic policies. Changes that were unlikely to happen until the deadly attacks of Sept. 11.

Chief among them is the move in the House by Speaker Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and Rep. Bill Thomas, California Republican and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to slash the capital-gains tax rate from 20 percent to 15 percent to stimulate new, risk-taking capital investment that is critical to America's future economic security.

A week before the terrorist attacks, Mr. Hastert and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, fearing they could lose the House and suffer additional losses in the Senate if the economy did not recover by the end of the year, decided to make this a top priority. Mr. Bush and his chief economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, opposed such a step at that time, believing the first phase in the tax cuts would kick in soon enough and turn the economy around by the fourth quarter.

But all that changed last week. The shock of the U.S. airline industry falling into the abyss, triggering thousands of layoffs and threatening companies with bankruptcy, a reeling stock market, and plunging consumer confidence convinced the White House that stronger economic medicine was needed. Mr. Bush, following Mr. Lindsey's advice, now says he would welcome additional tax cuts by Congress, giving a green light to the capgains rate reduction.

Mr. Thomas is working on a tax cut bill as this is written, which will include additional tax breaks for businesses. It is expected to be brought to the House soon, where the votes are there to pass it.

That will put Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and most of his party, fiercely opposed to capgains cuts, in a tough spot. How can he oppose capgains in the wake of the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor, and with the nation's economy in so perilous a position in the midst of war?

Last week, Mr. Thomas sounded the war cry that would likely be heard repeatedly by the White House: "A strong economy is one of the key weapons of war."

Besides, many of Mr. Daschle's fellow Democrats were for cutting capgains long before the attacks, including Chuck Schumer of New York, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Max Cleland and Zell Miller of Georgia and Bob Torricelli of New Jersey. And others like John Kerry of Massachusetts are prepared to sign on.

With pension assets of millions of workers, including the large union pension funds, melting in the stock market, there is going to be a lot of Democratic support for the GOP's capgains tax cuts. Put this on the list of will-pass legislation this year.

There are many other bills that Democrats were resisting and had little chance of passing this year that now look likely to pass this fall.

No one gave the administration's fast track trade-authorization bill much of a chance of getting to a vote this year, with strong Democratic opposition in both the House and the Senate. Now, Republican leaders, working on a compromise with key Democrats, say they will bring it up in the House soon, believing the new spirit of national unity will be enough to push it through.

Mr. Bush will declare the trade-negotiating bill a critical component in the nation's drive to open new consumer markets to strengthen the American economy. The betting in this corner is that it is going to pass Congress in this session.

Then there is Mr. Bush's energy legislation to make America less dependent on foreign oil. The bill, which will allow some drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate. If ever there was a bill that had national economic security written all over it, this is it. It will be hard for the Democrats to block this one in a time of war.

Other long-stalled bills are going to be passed soon as we move to a war footing. The defense appropriations bill, that Democrats were hoping to delay until the end of the session, will breeze through. And there will be much more Democratic support for an anti-missile system as a result, as the Wall Street Journal put it, of our "heightened sense of national vulnerability."

We are now in a time in this country when there are no Republicans or Democrats, just Americans, united, angry and fiercely determined to not only defend this nation from the scourge of terrorism but to scour terrorism from the face of the Earth.

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