- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist publicly apologized yesterday for undercutting House Republicans on tax cuts, and he and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert sat down hours later with President Bush to plan a new tax-cut strategy.
"I have apologized. I have said I've made mistakes," Mr. Frist, of Tennessee, told reporters after meeting with fellow Republican senators yesterday afternoon. "The big mistake, lesson learned, is 'no surprises.' And at this point, I'm ready to move on."
Two weeks ago, Mr. Frist and other Senate Republican leaders pledged to hold a tax-cut bill to $350 billion to win two senators' support for the budget. But that surprised House leaders, who said it violated a deal they had secured hours earlier to allow tax cuts of as much as $550 billion.
House members said Senate leaders jeopardized the trust necessary for the two chambers to work together, and Mr. Frist said yesterday that he realized he has to work to rebuild that relationship.
"You've got to have trust among your colleagues and the House of Representatives, and I'm absolutely committed to rebuild that trust, if that trust has really been lost, to say that I made a mistake, ready to move on and capture that vision of the president of the United States and my colleagues on the Republican side," he said.
Mr. Bush, Mr. Frist and Mr. Hastert cemented the new comity at a meeting last night at the White House residence. The 75-minute meeting covered the tax cut and such other items on Mr. Bush's domestic agenda as judicial nominations, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.
House leaders seem resigned to move past Mr. Frist's mistake.
"The Senate's not going to go away, and we have to deal with them," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
He said that having a House-Senate-White House strategy is important for meetings planned this week, including another gathering of House and Senate leaders today, and ongoing contacts between Cabinet officials and members of the House and Senate panels that will write the tax-cut bills.
"Based on what happened the last two or three days of the session, I think it's real important House and Senate leaders come together on strategy upfront," Mr. DeLay said.
Mr. Frist's side deal also upset conservative senators, who said they wouldn't have supported the budget if they had known they were limited to $350 billion in tax cuts. Yesterday, one of those, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said he feels that Mr. Frist "has got a good grasp of what we need to do."
The size of proposed tax cuts has divided Republicans in the Senate. On Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, hinted liberal Republicans might leave the party if they feel unduly pressured by conservatives to back a larger tax cut.
But yesterday the White House insisted it is not pushing too hard.
"I think you might find some people who wish we could push a little harder," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.
He promised that the White House would not retaliate against Republican Sens. George V. Voinovich of Ohio and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine for not supporting all $550 billion in tax cuts proposed by the president.
"The president recognizes different people will vote different ways," the spokesman said. "We ask all to engage in this debate in the spirit of open-mindedness and fairness."
But he added, "The president will work very hard to build a majority."
Also last night, the Treasury Department said the federal government will not be able to pay its bills in late May unless Congress raises the government's borrowing authority, now capped at $6.4 trillion.
Treasury's debt managers have taken a number of steps to prevent the government from default, but they "will only be adequate to meet the government's needs until the latter half of May," said a statement released last night.

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