WASHINGTON — President Clinton will use his weekly radio address on Saturday to announce that he has vetoed one of congressional Republicans' top legislative priorities, a $292 billion, 10-year tax cut for married couples, an informed Democrat said Friday.
Clinton's action comes as no surprise since he had promised to kill the measure even before the Senate gave final congressional approval to the legislation on July 21.
Yet coming two days after Republicans concluded their national convention by nominating Texas Gov. George W. Bush for president, the veto highlights Democrats' hopes of quickly stemming the momentum the GOP built for itself during its four-day gathering in Philadelphia.
At a campaign rally Friday in Akron, Ohio, Bush ridiculed Clinton's decision to veto the bill. "What kind of a tax code is it that discourages marriage?" he said.
Clinton's plans were described by a Democrat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
When they pushed the measure through Congress — with support from some Democrats — Republicans trumpeted it as eliminating the so-called marriage penalty. That is the popular name for the extra taxes 25 million couples must pay because they are married due to a structural quirk in the tax code.
But the bill would also cut taxes for about as many additional couples who now enjoy a marriage "bonus," paying less than they would pay if single. This largely affects families in which one spouse earns most of the family income.
Most of the bill's tax reductions come from enlarging the bottom 15 percent tax bracket and increasing the standard tax deduction for couples filing jointly.
Republicans argued that the measure would benefit millions of middle-class Americans while using just a small portion of the projected $2.2 trillion, 10-year federal surplus. The figure excludes even larger projected Social Security surpluses.
In his acceptance speech Thursday night, Bush said cutting taxes would be one of his priorities, but he did not specifically mention the marriage penalty.
But as part of the $1.3 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years that he has proposed in recent months, Bush has said he would "greatly reduce" the marriage penalty with a 10 percent deduction for two-earner couples of up to an additional $3,000.
Gene Sperling, Clinton's national economic adviser, said Republican tax cuts would cause deficits.
"The Republicans clearly believe America is mathematically challenged," Sperling said Friday. "But the simple math is when you add up tax cuts they're proposing this year with those being proposed in the campaign, they're over $2 trillion, leaving nothing for Medicare, nothing for Social Security, and putting America back in deficit."
"The president is not going to let that happen," he said.
Clinton and most Democrats have said the cuts in couples' taxes that Congress has passed would be enjoyed disproportionately by families in the top 1 percent income range. They have also said the bill's cost to the Treasury — and that of other GOP tax cuts — would consume a budget surplus that could be used better for trimming the national debt and providing a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
The Senate approved the measure by 60-34 on July 21 with the support of seven Democrats. A day earlier, the House passed it by 271-156, with 51 Democrats voting "yes."
In both cases, the bill was supported by less than the two-thirds majorities needed to override a presidential veto.
Many Republicans believe that Clinton's veto gives them a winning political issue by demonstrating that with a GOP-controlled Congress, a Democratic president is the only obstacle to sweeping tax reductions.