Outnumbered Republicans are urging quick Senate passage of a Democratic tax cut for the middle class so President Bush can veto it and clear the way for a compromise more to his liking.
"This bill is not a solution to the economic problems facing this country, and we all know it," the nine GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee said in a letter Tuesday. "It will be vetoed by the president and the veto will be sustained."Republicans made their case as the committee approved the bill on an 11-9 party-line vote. It would give 20 million middle-income families a permanent tax credit of $300 per child and pay for it by raising taxes on fewer than 1 million of the nation's wealthiest people.
Senate action is expected next week.
"Today we can start putting fairness for middle-income American families back into our tax code," said Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, the committee's chairman and chief author of the bill. He sounded the Democrats' chief goal of an election-year tax cut: reversing some of the 1980s tax changes that especially benefited the well-off.
Bush says he is concerned mainly about stimulating the economy. Finance Committee Democrats included versions of his own seven-point stimulus plan in their bill, but Republicans said that was not enough to offset the president's opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy.
Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, said Tuesday that Bush's veto threat "is based on his desire to protect the wealthiest one-half of 1 percent of all taxpayers at the expense of all other taxpayers." He said Bush's statement that people making as little as $35,000 would face tax increases "is completely false. It is an untrue statement."
Mitchell attributed Bush's tax stand to his challenge from conservative Patrick Buchanan. "He's in such a state of panic," Mitchell said of the president. "Mr. Buchanan has struck a nerve and it's clear the president doesn't know how to deal with it."
The tax cut for children would go to families with incomes under $70,000, although only those under $50,000 would get the full $300 per child. Bentsen said the credit would cut by 25 percent the income taxes of a typical four-member family earning $35,000.
The bill also would restore fully deductible Individual Retirement Accounts for virtually all workers and offer an option of making non-deductible contributions in order to take the interest tax-free in the future.