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GOP PROPOSAL FOR A TAX CUT COULD FACE CUTS, DOLE SAYS

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With Democrats accusing Republicans of favoring the rich and several conservative senators questioning the wisdom of a large tax cut, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole says the GOP's proposed $245 billion tax cut may not be possible.

But House Republicans immediately said they would not compromise on tax relief, a cornerstone of their "Contract With America" agenda. And Texas Sen. Phil Gramm vowed Monday to "slam that door" on any move by Dole to reduce the cut."I think . . . that Bob Dole is listening to too many Democrats and not enough Republicans," Gramm told reporters Monday during a campaign stop in Maine.

Gramm promised to use his new position on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee to fight Dole, and he accused the majority leader of "hedging" from the very beginning on the tax-cut proposal.

Dole and other Senate leaders voted for the plan to cut $245 billion over seven years, and it's "fairly unlikely that they would expect to walk off from that and expect to pass anything in the House," House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said.

The Senate is "honor bound" to live up to its end of the bargain, he said Sunday on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley."

Freshman Rep. David Mc-In-tosh, R-Ind., said retreat on the tax cut "would be a clear sign that the specter of business as usual in Washington has returned."

But Dole, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation," said he had been surprised by recent opposition in his own party to the tax break.

"There's been some indication even from conservative Republicans . . . that maybe we shouldn't try to go all the way to $245 billion," said Dole, R-Kan. "Will it be $245 billion? I'm not certain at this point."

Dole said there will be a tax cut and that it will include the main provisions of the current legislation - a $500-a-child tax credit for families and lowered capital gains rates.

For now, he said, he'll stick with the $245 billion figure, but as to the final outcome, "we'll see what happens."

Democrats say most of the benefits from the Republican plan go to the well-off and have used it as a centerpiece of their argument that Republicans are cutting social services to the poor in order to reward the wealthy.

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota said the tax cut was a "ruse" to pay for the Republican plan to reduce Medicare growth by $270 billion. "It's going to take 100 senior citizens to pay for one tax cut for a fat cat," he said.

That argument got some unexpected support last week when three Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Alfonse D'Amato of New York, voiced doubts about enacting a tax cut while health-care reform was on the table.

Hatch predicted that the tax cut would never happen, and D'Amato said he would prefer dealing with Medicare and Medicaid reform without "this business of tax cuts."