- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 20, 2002

The Senate's top Republican said he does not believe the Senate will pass legislation to delay or rescind President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut, nor does he foresee significant political fallout from the Enron scandal.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, made his comments yesterday in an interview on CNN in which he called Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, a "poster child" for "obstructionism."
Mr. Lott linked Mr. Daschle to the call made this week by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, to freeze the administration's tax cuts for families earning more than $130,000. Citing projected budget deficits, Mr. Kennedy said $350 billion of the scheduled tax relief should be spent instead on health care, education and homeland security.
Asked about Mr. Kennedy's proposal on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields," Mr. Lott said: "I think this is going to be a hard sell for him, even in the Senate. I don't believe there will be anywhere near a majority that would vote to roll back the tax relief that working Americans, working couples, not just upper-income, but middle-income couples also" are entitled to under the Bush tax cut.
Mr. Lott also charged that Mr. Kennedy is calling for a tax increase. "Sen. Kennedy was following up what Tom Daschle had to say [when he denounced the tax cut as worsening the recession] and actually saying what Tom meant to say, which was, 'Let's raise taxes so we can spend more money at the federal level.'"
Mr. Daschle, however, said Wednesday that he opposed Mr. Kennedy's plan to freeze the tax cut for families earning over $130,000.
Mr. Lott said it is obvious "about a quarter of the Democratic caucus don't agree" with efforts to postpone or repeal the Bush tax cut, noting that a dozen Senate Democrats supported the tax-reduction legislation last year.
The Senate minority leader also joined the chorus of top Republicans, who have labeled Mr. Daschle an "obstructionist" for failing to allow Senate votes on key elements of the president's legislative agenda and on dozens of presidential appointments. "I do share their view. I think there's no question about the fact that he has been an obstructionist," Mr. Lott said.
He went on to say he supports a recommendation by Republican strategist Frank Luntz, who has urged the Republican Party to use Mr. Daschle's inaction on measures such as the economic stimulus bill and the president's energy bill as a campaign issue.
"When you have a poster child like Tom Daschle, who has been an obstructionist, who clearly refused to even allow us to consider the economic stimulus package [passed by the Republican-led House] when we really needed it, he makes a poster child of himself. We would be irresponsible if we did not call his hand on it," Mr. Lott said.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Mississippi Republican was also asked about the scandal enveloping Enron Corp., an energy company that contributed heavily to both Republicans and Democrats and which overstated profits, covered-up debts and stands accused of blocking employees from selling billions of dollars in plummeting shares of their 401(k) retirement accounts.
Mr. Lott, who accepted $2,000 from Enron, said yesterday he does not think the scandal is "going to be that big politically."
Pressed as to whether there are political problems for the White House in its handling of the scandal, he said, "No, I don't. I think they've been very forthcoming."
Mr. Lott said he is "very disturbed" by the company's conduct and called its policy of contributing to candidates of both parties the "worst of all worlds." Unlike labor unions, he said, corporations like Enron "don't seem to know who their friends are, and they don't know who their enemies are."

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