- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

The White House yesterday accused the Senate of slashing the president's proposed tax cut in order to spend more money, not save it, and promised a fight to restore the cut to its original size.
"Don't be fooled: That wasn't a vote to pare back the size of the tax cut," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. "That was a vote to increase the amount of spending that the government does.
"No one should think that because they pared back the size of the tax cut, the money will be saved," he told reporters on Air Force One. "It won't be saved. It will be spent."
The administration was rocked by the Senate's sudden decision late Tuesday to slash the 10-year tax cut by more than half, from $726 billion to $350 billion. The vote was 51-48, with three Republicans voting against Mr. Bush's proposed tax cut.
"It remains to be seen whether that is indeed the final word," Mr. Fleischer said. "If it is the final word, then, of course, you go into a conference with the House, where that figure in the Senate will serve as a springboard to a tax-cut number that is finally settled on which, of course, the House has spoken out about and is a significantly higher number."
He added: "But there's still more votes to come in the Senate. There are going to be other efforts to return the tax cut closer to its original size. So we'll see what the final outcome is."
Hours after Mr. Fleischer spoke, Senate Democrats defeated efforts by Republicans to restore the Bush tax cut to its original size. The Senate went on to pass a budget that includes the smaller tax cut, which will now have to reconciled with the $726 billion cut passed earlier by the House.
"It is unfortunate that the full Senate has failed to pass a budget that provides for my entire economic-growth and job-creation plan," Mr. Bush said in a written statement. "The House budget took the bold steps necessary to boost our economy, and we will work to ensure that the final House-Senate budget provides the growth measures American workers deserve."
The administration was unapologetic about holding out for the full tax cut, saying it was necessary to stimulate the economy.
"The way the president approaches it is, what's the best way to create the most jobs?" Mr. Fleischer said. "Private-sector forecasts show the economy will continue to grow and is likely to grow even more in the second half of the year and into next year.
"The question is, what message will Congress send unemployed workers who are waiting for the economy to grow fast enough to put them to work?" he added. "And the more they shrink the tax cut, the harder it will be for people to find work, because the economy won't grow as fast."
Mr. Fleischer dismissed Democratic claims that the money slashed from the tax cut will be earmarked for Social Security.
"Of course, that's what they say," Mr. Fleischer said. "But that doesn't hold water. It will be spent."
The White House stopped short of publicly rebuking the three centrist Republicans who broke ranks with the president with their votes on Tuesday. They were Sens. Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, George V. Voinovich of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.
"Whatever the reason members give, members are doing their due diligence," Mr. Fleischer said. "They cast their votes in principle. We'll continue to work with them."

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