- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

As the Republican-led House spars with the Democratic-controlled Senate over various tax issues, four items become readily apparent. The first is how slowly many of the tax cuts that were passed last year in President Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax-relief program are to be implemented over the decade. For example, despite the fact that tens of millions of two-earner married couples have for years been paying about $1,400 per year more in federal income taxes than they would pay if they were cohabitating and filing separately, the amelioration of this deplorable situation doesn't begin until 2005. Then, it takes five years to fully address. Regarding the estate tax, more appropriately known as the death tax, the tax-relief plan reduced the 55 percent rate by only 5 percentage points in 2002, after which it will decline by a mere 1 percentage point per year through 2007. Afterward, it is belatedly eliminated altogether in 2010 only to resume in full force the very next year.
The second item apparent in the ongoing congressional tax battle is the emergence of a genuine bipartisan consensus in the House to make last year's tax cuts permanent. (Otherwise, as in the case of the death tax noted above, all of the slowly implemented tax cuts will be completely reversed in 2011, resulting in the largest tax increase in history.) Indicative of this emerging bipartisanship in the House was the 256-171 vote on June 6 to permanently repeal the estate tax, as 41 Democrats joined more than 200 Republicans. In a bipartisan vote last week to permanently eliminate the marriage-penalty tax, 60 Democrats joined a unanimous Republican caucus in a 271-142 vote.
The third item that has become apparent is the determination of the Senate Democratic leadership to thwart the House's bipartisan effort to make permanent the tax relief that Congress passed last year. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle refused even to hold a vote on a House-passed bill to make the entire tax-relief program permanent. More recently, even though nine Democrats joined 45 Republicans to muster a majority in the Senate to vote to permanently repeal the death tax, proponents fell six votes shy of the 60 needed to prevail.
The final item is that November's election will be the decisive factor in determining who wins the tax-cut fight. At a minimum, Republicans will clearly need to recapture the Senate. To reach the 60 votes required to defeat a Democratic-led filibuster, more than mere majority status will be required. If that goal is to be achieved, it will require knocking off at least two, if not all three, of the double-dealing, re-election-seeking Democrats who voted last year to enact the 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut and then voted last week against making the repeal of the estate tax permanent. They are Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Robert Torricelli of New Jersey and Jean Carnahan of Missouri.


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