- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Senate Republican leader Trent Lott yesterday bitterly accused Majority Leader Tom Daschle of abdicating responsibility for the economy, and dared Democrats to offer their own proposals instead of just criticizing President Bush's agenda.
After weeks of political attacks from Senate Democratic leaders on Mr. Bush's handling of the economy, Mr. Lott hit back with his strongest counterattack to date, one day before Mr. Bush was to hold a major public forum in Waco, Texas, about how to strengthen the U.S. economy, create jobs and foster new investment.
"The Senate Democratic leadership has been missing in action in the effort to reinvigorate the economy. Rather than joining with the president and offering their own ideas and solutions, they have chosen to play the blame game," the Mississippi lawmaker said in a one-page memorandum sent out to every Republican senator and all of the GOP's senatorial candidates.
"It is not enough to armchair quarterback the president's leadership when you have failed to offer an alternative economic plan. The American people expect Congress to do its job. Republicans are ready and willing to debate our differences and reach a consensus, but it is difficult to hold a debate when one side has abdicated its responsibility," he said.
Mr. Lott said that several Democratic senators have "stood up to the plate and offered their vision for a better economic future," adding that it was "a mystery why Senator Daschle does not put on the table a Democratic plan so that the president, Democrats and Republicans can work together."
"If they are unwilling to support the president and Republicans' economic proposals, they have a responsibility to produce their own," he said.
Mr. Lott's broadside at Mr. Daschle and the Democrats was intended to get Republicans back on offense in the midterm elections where a net gain or loss of one seat could decide which party will control the Senate for the next two years.
He was also acting at the urging of the White House to get tougher with Mr. Daschle and other Democratic leaders who have been pummeling Mr. Bush for weeks over the economic slowdown and the stock market's decline. Despite the intensity of the attacks, there has been relatively little return fire from the Republican leadership, administration officials have privately complained.
The latest Democratic assault on Mr. Bush came Saturday when Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, said the president "tried to talk the markets up and down, in an effort to manipulate the economy to peak and crest at politically convenient times."
"Every time this economic team opens its mouth, markets shudder, currencies collapse and Americans watch their 401(k)s dwindle," he said.
A week earlier, Mr. Daschle of South Dakota delivered a stinging rebuke of Mr. Bush's policies, saying "the economy is in trouble. And there is no economic leadership coming from the White House today."
Mr. Lott's memo listed five actions that Mr. Bush has taken to strengthen the economy and to respond to the market's slide in the wake of the corporate accounting scandal. Among them: the trade authorization to open more foreign markets to U.S. exports, his tax cuts to cut rates across the board by $1.35 trillion over this decade, the energy bill to boost domestic oil development in the United States, and a bill Mr. Bush signed to crack down on corporate wrongdoers.
But Senate leadership sources yesterday said there was another strategic rationale behind Mr. Lott's counterattack to goad Mr. Daschle and the Democrats into calling for repealing tax cuts.
While Mr. Daschle and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, have criticized the tax cuts and blamed them for the deficits, they have refused to endorse any proposals for their repeal.
"We know they'd raise taxes if they had the votes," said a Senate Republican leadership official. "Why not smoke them out?"
Mr. Lott, of Mississippi, clipped a chart to his memo that listed the charges key Democrats have hurled against Mr. Bush's economic policies and what their own plans were. In the box by Mr. Daschle's name, it said: "None since the stimulus bill."
Democratic Sens. John R. Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut have all called for partial repeal of the tax cuts for taxpayers in the top brackets.
"The Democratic leadership is complaining about the Republican proposals, but they have not offered any of their own. It's a little hard to debate them when the other side won't put their own ideas on the table," said Republican pollster David Winston.

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