Aid to Poland and Hungary will be delayed and perhaps killed by President Bush's decision to inject capital gains tax reductions into the debate, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell said Thursday.
"Obviously the capital gains issue has nothing to do with aid to Eastern Europe," the Maine Democrat told the Senate. "Obviously the only effect can be to delay and perhaps kill aid to Poland and Hungary."He called the GOP's decision to inject capital gains into the debate one of a series of "unwise and almost baffling" steps Bush and the Republicans have taken.
But Republican leader Bob Dole accused Democrats of injecting partisan politics into the debate and said Republicans had no choice but to seek action on capital gains on every possible bill.
"Options on this side for at least a look at capital gains are shrinking daily," the Kansas Republican said. "It finally occurred to us that if we didn't act on this bill we would be shut out entirely."
Dole contended that while Republicans will "stand our ground," the delay will not affect aid to Poland and Hungary over the long run. It will have the effect of further focusing attention on the wisdom of adopting a costly Democratic plan to provide nearly $1 billion in aid over three years, the GOP leader said.
Dole asserted that the less costly Republican approach has more safeguards against funneling the money to "failed socialist enterprises. We are not reducing our sympathy to Poland or to the Solidarity movement. We are not denying anything to Poland,"
But Mitchell said leaders of Poland's non-communist government "have stressed the importance of prompt action as much as the level of the assistance itself."
"Surely the brave leaders of Solidarity who have struggled to restore democracy to Poland know that this assistance is needed in a timely fashion," he said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and other Democrats said the president has offered Eastern Europe encouragement but no real or solid commitment as it begins to move away from communism and toward democracy and free enterprise.
"Why is this administration so willing to commit billions for war but only small change for peace?" Leahy asked.