Thursday, March 08, 2001

Tristate delegation backing Bush

All but two Dems support tax plan

By Derrick DePledge
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Tristate Republican congressmen were prepared to support President Bush today on the first part of his $1.6 trillion tax package.

        Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Kentucky, was leaning in favor of the president's plan. Rep. Baron Hill, D-Indiana, was opposed.

Bush's plan gains favor

        A new Ohio Poll from the University of Cincinnati, meanwhile, found that 56 percent of respondents favor Mr. Bush's tax package, 35 percent oppose it and 9 percent had no opinion.

        Ohio residents were divided on the likely effect of across-the-board income-tax cuts on the economy, with 41 percent believing it would help, 19 percent predicting it would hurt and 37 percent arguing it would not make much difference.

        The poll of more than 800 residents statewide was taken between Feb. 13-25. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

        The House was ready today to approve a $958 billion portion of the package that would reduce marginal tax rates for all federal taxpayers. Republican leaders are confident they have the votes necessary for passage, but most Democrats indicated they would vote against the president.

        “I think it's an extremely important vote,” said Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, House liaison to the White House, “not from a public-relations perspective, but because it's key to getting us out of this economic slump.

        “It's very important to allow people to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

        Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, believes a larger tax cut would limit Congress from using the surplus for additional federal spending.

        “A tax cut is long overdue, particularly when we have a weakening economy,” he said. “I would go further, but I would certainly vote for his plan. I'm going to keep coming back until we get even more tax relief.”

        Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, will also vote yes.

        The Senate is divided equally between the political parties, giving lawmakers there more leverage to insist on changes.

        A few Republicans already have broken from Mr. Bush and proposed their own tax plans while Democrats are preparing to contest the Bush package as a break for the wealthy.

        Ohio's Republican senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, and Kentucky's Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, all support the president.

Blue Dog Dems urge delay

        Several centrist lawmakers, including Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., proposed Wednesday that the tax cuts be linked to annual debt-reduction goals as a safeguard against future deficits.

        The Bush administration estimates its tax package would produce about $1,600 in savings for an average family of four, while research and interest groups have come up with different figures depending on family size and other variables.

        Conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, the most likely Republican converts on tax issues, sent a letter to Mr. Bush last week urging a delay in the tax vote until the package could be evaluated within a budget resolution.

        Mr. Lucas signed the letter but his staff said Wednesday he was leaning toward voting for the Bush package.

        Mr. Lucas, who represents a conservative district, has been under pressure from labor unions to stick with the Democrats.

        Another Blue Dog, Mr. Hill of Indiana, said he would vote against both the Bush package and an alternative backed by Democratic leaders.

        “By moving forward with a trillion-dollar tax cut without first explaining how it fits into a budget framework, they are ignoring both common sense and long-established rules of the House of Representatives,” he said. “They are promising everything to everybody now, and putting off the hard choices for later.”

        Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, will also vote against the plan.


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