- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2003

President Bush, determined to break the family history of winning a war against Iraq only to lose re-election because of a sputtering economy, yesterday derided the Senate's $350 billion tax-cut plan as a "little-bitty tax-relief package."
The president, visiting Ohio to put pressure on a fellow Republican who opposes his plan, said the tax cut needs to be "at least $550 billion in size over a 10-year period in order to make sure that the economy grows."
Mr. Bush's speech was directed in part at Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, who was one of two Republicans who wouldn't vote for the budget two weeks ago until Senate Republican leaders assured them tax cuts won't exceed $350 billion.
Mr. Voinovich greeted Mr. Bush as he descended from Air Force One in Dayton and met briefly with him later, but did not attend either of the president's two speeches in Ohio yesterday. Without mentioning Mr. Voinovich specifically, the president criticized those who opposed his plan.
"Some in Congress say the plan is too big. Well, it seems like to me they might have some explaining to do. If they agree that tax relief creates jobs, then why are they for a little-bitty tax-relief package?" Mr. Bush asked.
"If they believe tax relief is important for job creation, they ought to join us and join this administration and join many in Congress and have a robust package that creates enough work for the American people," he said, drawing applause from workers at a Timken Co. bearing plant in Canton.
Turning his attention from the economy to the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush made a small slip in his speech. "We fought a war in Afghanistan, and now we have finished a war in the process of finishing a war in Iraq," he said. The White House later reiterated that Gen. Tommy Franks will determine when the war is over.
Mr. Bush originally had proposed $726 billion in tax cuts. The budget that passed Congress allows up to $550 billion in tax cuts, but Mr. Voinovich and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine secured an agreement from Republican Senate leaders that in effect won't allow tax cuts of more than $350 billion.
The president now says he will accept $550 billion in tax cuts, and Republicans in Congress say that number should cover most of the provisions Mr. Bush wants. His plan would end double taxation of dividends and accelerate tax cuts already approved by Congress but slated to take effect over the next seven years.
"Listen, all I'm asking Congress to do is to take the tax-relief package they've already passed, accelerate it to this year so that we can get this economy started and people can find work," he said.
On the tarmac in Canton, Mr. Voinovich said he was "for the package" offered by Mr. Bush and added that "if we can find the offsets, we can do more than" $350 billion.
While the White House said it was not seeking to pressure the senator, a similar tactic had an effect the last time Mr. Bush sought a major tax cut. Mr. Bush visited Ohio in February 2001 to promote that year's $1.6 trillion proposal, and Mr. Voinovich who describes himself as "the Senate's leading debt hawk" announced his support a week later.
Yesterday, Voinovich spokesman Scott Milburn said the senator supports the particulars of the president's tax-cut plan, but wants any tax cuts more than $350 billion to be offset by reductions in spending.
"The senator is comfortable with his position and has no intention of changing it, but, frankly, his position and the president's position is much closer together than people think," Mr. Milburn said.
Mr. Bush said he inherited an economy already in the throes of recession and that the situation worsened after the September 11 attacks. He said his tax cuts would create 1.4 million jobs.
Democrats, though, said the president's first tax-cut package in 2001 didn't bring prosperity.
"Two years ago, the Republican-controlled Congress approved President Bush's proposal for an enormous tax cut for the wealthy, promising that it would grow the economy," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. "Instead, a record surplus has turned into a record deficit."
Mr. Bush also yesterday traveled to Lima, Ohio, to deliver essentially the same speech and to tour the Lima Army Tank Plant, which makes the Abrams M1A2 tank. At both sites, Mr. Bush coupled talk on the economy with his efforts on national security, expected to be key elements of his re-election strategy.
His father lost re-election after the 1991 Gulf war.
Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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