- The Washington Times - Friday, April 19, 2002

The Republican-led House yesterday voted to make permanent the Bush administration's tax cuts, but Senate Democrats promised to kill the measure that is fast becoming an election issue.
The House vote was 229-198 along party lines. The lone "no" vote among Republicans came from Rep. Constance A. Morella of Maryland; nine Democrats voted for the bill.
Republicans said it would be unfair to rescind the administration's $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2010 due to an "arcane" congressional rule that limits tax relief to 10 years.
"It's a promise," said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. "It's a commitment we made to the American people, and we need to live up to that commitment."
Democrats said extending the tax cut beyond 2010 would deplete $4 trillion from the Social Security trust fund in the following decade, when a huge group of baby boomers will become eligible for retirement benefits.
"This is the vote of this Congress on Social Security," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat. "Let me assure you that this vote is going to be the subject of a lot of campaigns for the House this fall."
In the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Daschle vowed to stop the measure from becoming law.
"We're going to be opposing it very aggressively in the days and weeks ahead," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "I think for the Republicans first to dip into the Social Security trust fund with $400 billion of additional tax cuts, 60 percent going to those with incomes over a half a million dollars a year, is something that we'll take to South Dakota and around this country with relish."
Republicans said tax cuts do not "raid" the Social Security system and have no impact on benefit levels because surplus payroll taxes are credited to the trust funds as interest-bearing Treasury bills.
"They are using scare tactics about Social Security and Medicare to make sure that you don't get some of your hard-earned money back," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican.
Republicans said they, too, intend to campaign on the issue, portraying Democrats' opposition as a vote for a huge tax increase in 2011.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said Democrats who voted against the bill "are really saying yes to the largest single-day tax increase in history."
Rep. Jack Kingston, Georgia Republican, said the issue will enable the GOP to keep reminding voters that Mr. Daschle is blocking the Bush agenda. The White House included the permanent tax cuts in its budget for fiscal 2003.
"It's one more thing that Tom Daschle is holding up," Mr. Kingston said. "He is the election-year face of the Democratic Party. He's still the roadblock on the Bush progress, and people know that."
Under a Senate budget rule named for its proponent, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, any legislation that would add to deficits or reduce federal surpluses must expire after 10 years. Therefore, the tax cuts that were a top priority of Mr. Bush are set to expire on Dec. 31, 2010.
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, called tax cuts the Republicans' "Pavlovian policy prescription for every occasion."
But the business community expressed enthusiastic support.
"Making last year's tax relief permanent is extremely important for small businesses especially small family businesses that don't know if the death tax is going to be truly repealed," said Dan Danner, vice president of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the largest lobby for small businesses.
The measure also raises the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000; eliminates the "marriage penalty" that causes married couples who file a return jointly to pay more in taxes than if they were living together unmarried and filing separately; raising the limit for IRA contributions from $2,000 to $5,000; eliminating the death and gift taxes; and allowing greater deductibility of student-loan interest.
Mr. Daschle said this week he will "never" allow the Senate to vote on the bill. Twelve Senate Democrats voted for the tax cuts last year, but Mr. Daschle said a "large number" from that group opposes making the tax relief permanent.
The Senate consists of 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent.

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