GOP moderates vow to lower Bush's tax cuts
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As President Bush sent his centerpiece tax-cut proposal to Capitol Hill on Thursday, moderates in his own party vowed to scale back the package, calling it too big and not focused enough toward those who need a break the most.
Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vermont, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which writes tax legislation, said he would push to lower Bush's 10-year, $1.6 trillion dollar tax cut.
"Right now the size of it, I think, is too high, so I would vote to cut it," Jeffords told CNN.
"I think it's not oriented as well is it could be for those who need it, especially the low-income people needing health insurance and others who need funds just to live, so I think it's oriented the wrong way and I think it's a little bit too big."
With the Senate committees split evenly, each vote on the committee is crucial to passing tax legislation.
Enough senators to block proposal
Jeffords, who said he favors a tax cut no higher than $1 trillion, said there are enough votes on the committee to block the president's proposal.
"I would guess there is a substantial number [on the committee] such that it will be difficult for them to pass it in its present form," Jeffords said.
"I will be working to try and moderate a tax cut in a way that I think will benefit more the people that need it and not have quite as big because I am more pessimistic about the future than the president is," he added.
Moderate Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, also a member of the Finance Committee, advocates a "trigger" mechanism to cut off a tax cut should the surpluses fall short of projections.
Republican leaders have said they oppose that idea, but Snowe aides said the senator would be hard-pressed to vote for the Bush tax cut without a safeguard.
Jeffords cites 'duty' to cut plan
Jeffords, one of a handful of moderates in the GOP Senate caucus, said it his duty to negotiate with Bush and his party leadership for a lower tax cut.
"I would let it be known I would probably oppose it and see what kind of deal we could make," he said. "That's generally the way it works and I've had success in the past in getting changes at the last minute because the vote's going to be very close."
"Those of us that stand in the middle of the political spectrum have an opportunity to do our job as we feel it should be done, and that's to moderate matters when they come to the final conclusion," Jeffords added.
Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-Rhode Island, also said he would oppose a $1.6 trillion dollar tax cut.
"I campaigned against it because I think it's too high," said Chafee. "We should take that money and invest it in some other worthy interests. There is no shortage of worthy programs."
Some GOP House members want a much higher tax cut than $1.6 trillion, a fact that might make it difficult for Bush to appease the moderates in the Senate.
Democrats claim Bush's plan is geared toward the wealthy and is based on questionable surplus projections.
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Senator Jim Jeffords
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