- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

House Democrats told Treasury Secretary John W. Snow yesterday the administration should not go forward with tax cuts before it states a total cost for a war in Iraq and stationing troops there afterward.
"Every time you've had a war, you've had a tax increase," said Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, at a Ways and Means Committee hearing. "I'd like to know how you're going to be the first secretary of Treasury in history to cut taxes while going to war."
The hearing was House Republicans' first step toward passing President Bush's 10-year, $695 billion economic-growth package and its centerpiece $380 billion elimination of the tax on corporate dividends.
House Republicans want to pass a broad version of the bill so they will leave themselves and the White House in a strong bargaining position with the Senate when it comes time to hammer out differences.
One key Democrat said yesterday he doesn't think Democrats will be able to block the bill in the House, where he predicted it will pass on a party-line vote.
"I think it will. I think the idea of [committee Chairman Bill] Thomas and the Republican leadership is to get it out of committee, take it to the floor in a couple of days and send it to the Senate," Rep. Robert T. Matsui, California Democrat, told reporters in a briefing before yesterday's hearing.
"I think it'll probably have to be re-examined in the Senate," said Mr. Matsui, who is also chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
During the hearing, Democrats closely questioned Mr. Snow about possible war, with Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat, suggesting that by not knowing the cost of an Iraq war, Mr. Snow is making a case for his own impeachment "for incompetence."
Mr. Snow, though not providing a cost, said the nation can afford both war and the economic plan, and he said the president believes in the fundamental fairness of his tax cut.
"The principle here is very important the principle that corporate incomes should be taxed once," he said.
Democrats have countered with several tax-cut proposals of their own, all of which call for one-year tax cuts they say would give the economy an immediate boost without long-term fiscal damage.
But Mr. Snow said those proposals won't work in the long run because people will only respond when assured that tax benefits will be there year after year.
"One-time shots just frankly aren't worth the cost to give them," Mr. Snow said.
Mr. Matsui also told reporters yesterday that Republicans are using "tough tactics" to maintain support from the business and lobbying communities.
He said several lobbyists for corporations and associations have told him or his staff they don't particularly care about the dividend-tax issue, but they are publicly supporting it to win White House or congressional Republicans' support for their own provisions.
He said he could not name the lobbyists or their organizations, though, because they did not want to go public.
"It's happening in the House in terms of intimidation, and it's happening at the White House. That's really what's going on. These folks will not become public," he said, adding that he has encouraged some of them to hold a news conference, but they have refused.
"This White House has intimidated them," Mr. Matsui said.
But White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan rejected the charge.
"The White House is working constructively and in a bipartisan manner to increase growth in the economy to create more jobs for American workers, and the president looks forward to working in the spirit of bipartisanship to accomplishing these objectives," she said.

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