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GOP clings to issue of IRS reform

President Clinton's grudging support for an IRS restructuring plan won't rob the GOP of a potent election-year issue because the public "knows what a difference a Republican Congress can make," a major GOP sponsor said Saturday.

"One of the very interesting things to watch in Washington is a train leaving the station with politicians rushing to get on after it's already beginning to move out of the blocks," the Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, said on CNN's "Evans & Novak.""And that's exactly what happened here."

After months of strong opposition, the Clinton administration reversed itself and endorsed a House bill aimed at restructuring the IRS after sponsors agreed to key changes.

The administration had opposed creating an oversight board of private citizens with authority to hire and fire the IRS commissioner. The new measure preserves the president's appointment and dismissal powers.

The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, which Archer chairs, voted 33-4 last Wednesday to send the bill to the full House, where passage is expected before Congress adjourns for the year probably next month.

Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., used the GOP's Saturday response to the president's weekly radio address to extol the restructuring bill as "the beginning of a tax system that's more consumer-friendly."

The bill contains 28 taxpayer rights provisions, such as providing relief to so-called innocent spouses, usually divorced women ordered to pay tax penalties because of mistakes by ex-husbands who prepared their returns.

"We're going to build an agency that can answer your calls, provide accurate information and help solve problems," said Johnson, head of a Ways and Means subcommittee that oversees the IRS.