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Bush vows to push tax cut, GOP agenda

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AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- George W. Bush vows to pursue his trillion-dollar tax cut and the GOP agenda despite narrowly winning the U.S. presidential election.

The president-elect told a news conference Sunday while appointing three senior White House staff members that he will stick to his pledge to cut $1.3 trillion in taxes over 10 years.

"I campaigned on a tax-relief package that I firmly believed then, and believe even more now, is important as an insurance policy against any economic downturn," Bush said.

Some critics have suggested Bush should seek compromise with Democratic lawmakers given the close election, in which he edged out Vice President Al Gore 271-267 in Electoral College votes. Gore finished ahead of Bush in the popular vote.

Bush also said Sunday he would work with Congress to make the tax code fairer. "The tax code is unfair for people at the bottom of the economic ladder," he said.

But he asked for time to make his case.


"It doesn't seem to make much sense for people to be drawing lines in the sands until we've had a chance to discuss things," he said.

Partisan positions

Bush made three appointments during the news conference -- Condoleezza Rice as his national security adviser, Alberto Gonzales as White House counsel, and Karen Hughes as counsel to the president. Bush named retired Gen. Colin Powell secretary of state on Saturday.

Bush told the news conference he will make his case while meeting this week with congressional members. He said the meetings would be the beginning of dialogue crucial to achieving results.

Bush is scheduled to meet Monday with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

But congressional lawmakers took partisan stands Sunday as they argued about how to divide power in the evenly split Senate.

Democrats appearing on Sunday talk shows called for the division in the legislative body to be reflected in committees. Vice President-elect Dick Cheney has said he may be spending more time on Capitol Hill compared with previous vice presidents. As president of the Senate, he would cast tie-breaking votes.

"The membership in the Senate itself, 50-50, ought to be reflected in the membership of the committees, ought to be reflected in the way we handle our legislative process, ought to be reflected in all the other aspects of the Senate operations," said Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, on ABC's "This Week."

But equal numbers don't necessarily translate into equal power, said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, on CNN's "Late Edition."

"The Senate is going to be 50-50 plus one, the vice president, 51-50," he said.

Kerry: 'Wrong foot'

Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, told "Fox News Sunday" that Republicans need to recognize bipartisanship means building consensus, finding the center and reaching out.

"If they think they're going to use Dick Cheney to hold a majority of one member which isn't reflected in the membership of the Senate, they're beginning on the wrong foot," Kerry said.

Lott said it was too soon to decide whether Republicans should hold all Senate committee chairs or whether Democrats and Republicans should be equally represented on committees.

"I don't think we ought to be saying right now exactly what we're going to do," Lott said.

Cheney said partisan fighting need not result from attempts to pass the tax cut, which has been criticized by some Democrats as bad for the nation's economy. He said Bush is prepared to work with Democrats to put together coalitions to pass legislation.

"What he's not willing to do is compromise on principle. There's a fine line between, on the one hand, compromising on principle, and, on the other hand, making adjustments that are needed to build coalitions," Cheney said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Pondering reforms

Asked whether Bush would support the McCain-Feingold proposal on campaign finance reform, Cheney said Bush wanted any such legislation to include "paycheck protection," which McCain-Feingold does not.

A "paycheck protection" bill would require written consent from union members before their dues could be used for political purposes. Unions have not supported such proposals.

Cheney said campaign finance reform is only part of the problem that must be addressed.

"After the Florida recount process, there is going to be great interest in complete election reform. People are going to want to sit down and look at the whole spectrum of how we pick our president, a part of which is campaign finance reform," he said.


Sunday, December 17, 2000


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