- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

All things considered, President Bush achieved a couple of major intermediary budget victories in Congress last week. In the early morning hours of Friday and by a narrow margin (215-212), the House passed a budget resolution that fully incorporated the president's 11-year (including 2003), $726 billion short-run stimulus and long-term economic growth package. With House Democrats in near lock-step opposition (only Texas Democrat Ralph Hall endorsed the president's plan), telephone calls from Vice President Dick Cheney to several wavering moderate Republicans made the difference in the House. Later Friday, the Senate approved an amendment nicking $100 billion from the package and earmarking that sum for war costs. Considering the alternative would have chopped more than $375 billion from the tax-relief package, the president emerged from Friday's Senate skirmish relatively unscathed.
In a vote likely to take place tomorrow, the Senate is expected to complete its preliminary work on the budget resolution. With Senate Republican leaders supporting the full $726 billion growth package, the House-Senate budget conference may well generate a complete victory for the president on his signature tax-cut proposal, barring a revolt in the Senate during final passage.
Congress' likely passage of its budget resolution in conformity with the White House's wishes will have several important consequences. First, it will signal that the Republican-controlled Congress will have regained control over the budget process. Last year, the Democratic-controlled Senate failed to pass its budget resolution, marking the first time that had occurred in more than a quarter century and setting the stage for the appropriations fiascoes that ensued. Second, by including the economic growth package in the "reconciliation" instructions, the budget resolution will prevent Senate Democrats from filibustering the tax-relief plan. Final passage will require only 51 votes, not the filibuster-proof 60.
The third consequence, made possible by the first two, is arguably the most important. Unlike the Democrats' incentive-free, lump-sum rebate, which in millions of cases represents nothing more than a de facto transfer payment, Republican-supported tax relief will provide multiple incentives for individuals and businesses to increase the supply of labor and capital. The president's plan, moreover, will more efficiently allocate both physical and financial capital. Advancing the income-tax-rate reductions scheduled for 2004 and 2006 and eliminating the double taxation of stock dividends will provide short-run relief and long-run growth. Accelerating previously legislated increases in the child tax credit from $600 to $1,000 will provide middle-class families with badly needed help for their household budgets that have been hurt by the recent large increases in energy prices, which act like tax increases. And eliminating the marriage penalty is simply the right thing to do.
Those who bemoan the recent increase in the budget deficit either fail to understand or deliberately ignore the fact that strong economic growth is by far the best, and least painful, way to reverse the unfavorable trend in the deficit.

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