- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

House Republicans were setting up another tax-cut fight after they announced yesterday a broad $82 billion tax cut as a response to the $10 billion the Senate passed last week.

Rep. Bill Thomas, California Republican and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said their bill will extend the $1,000-per-child tax credit from now through 2010.

He said that will force senators, and in particular Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat and one of those pushing the Senate bill, to prove they are interested in policy rather than politics.

“If these people need help between now and the election, they need it for the rest of the decade,” Mr. Thomas said, pointedly noting several times that Mrs. Lincoln is up for re-election in November 2004 and the $1,000 tax credit is scheduled to fall to $700 in 2005.

Mr. Thomas said they expect to vote on the bill tomorrow, and the burden would then fall on the Senate to accept or reject it.

The president signed a $350 billion tax-cut package into law last month, advancing the per-child tax credit to $1,000, but it did not extend it for those who don’t make enough money to pay income taxes. Those 7 million families would receive $600 per child this year, while the 25 million families that do earn enough would get $1,000 per child.

Following Democrats’ outcry, the Senate last week passed a $10 billion bill that extends the credit to the other 7 million families, and that erases the eligibility disparity between married couples and single taxpayers for the credit. Democrats have spent the intervening week demanding the House pass the same bill.

Republicans, though, have said it is hypocritical for senators who didn’t vote for the initial $350 billion package, including Mrs. Lincoln and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, to now demand action on their bill.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said the House will not pass the Senate’s plan. He also said they won’t include the offsetting revenue increases the Senate had in its plan.

A spokesman for Mrs. Lincoln did not return a call for comment yesterday afternoon, but Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, said the Republicans’ proposal holds “working families hostage” and “shows a disdain for the poor.”

“From Day One, the Republican House leaders have made it clear that they think the child of a poor family should receive a smaller tax credit than the child of a wealthy family. That is not fair and it is not compassionate,” Mr. Rangel said.

House and Senate Republican leaders were meeting with President Bush at the White House yesterday to discuss the tax bill, and to get the president’s blessing on their plan to transfer about $5 billion from defense spending into domestic programs.

The money is left over from the supplemental defense spending bill passed earlier this year to pay for the one-month war in Iraq.

Republican appropriators want the president’s backing in order to persuade conservatives to go along with reallocating the defense funds. The move will open the door to higher discretionary spending in non-defense areas than the budget resolution allots.

“Conservatives want to know if there’s a complete plan in place that doesn’t just start the appropriations process, but brings it to a close at a fixed number,” said an aide to a conservative Republican House member.

Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is confident that the budget resolution will be strictly followed. The White House meeting was necessary to “bring us together” on how to shape the 2004 spending bills.

“I’m not sure there is a consensus in the House and Senate interpretations of the budget resolution,” Mr. Stevens said, adding that “we’re going to keep the top line [of spending] at $784 billion.”

The two chambers of Congress “have got to have the same line above which you cannot spend,” Mr. Stevens said. Once that is set, he said, markups of the 13 spending bills could begin as early as this week.

Republicans are determined to avoid the breakdown of the budget and spending process that marked the Democrats’ last year in charge of the Senate. Mr. Stevens said he’ll do “whatever it takes to get 13 bills through the Senate.”

“I want to get our job done this year,” Mr. Stevens said.

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