Skip to main content

Bush continues to exert tax cut pressure on Senate Democrats

Bush speaks to the residents of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Friday  

In this story:

One South Dakota senator won't bend

Plan reduces tax rates

Democrats criticize pushing bill through


LAFAYETTE, Louisiana (CNN) -- With House passage Thursday of a Republican bill to reconfigure the tax-rate system, President Bush began the long march Friday toward the bill's later consideration in the Senate.

The bill must be taken up in the upper chamber before the president can sign any new tax-relief legislation. Congressional approval of a tax cut would fulfill a pledge Bush first made in the early months of his presidential campaign.

But the bill that eventually emerges from the Senate is unlikely to resemble the bill that cruised through the House Thursday on a 230-198 vote.

The Senate is evenly divided between the parties, with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats seated. Bush will need all the help he can get from both sides, but he faces the prospect of moderate members of his own party, objecting to the size and scope of his $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal, abandoning him.

In preparation for such a worst-case scenario, Bush has turned toward Democrats. He has time to persuade many members of the minority who may be on the fence -- the Senate committees charged with considering tax legislation might not begin their work until sometime in May at the earliest.

Bush dropped in on a friendly crowd in Lafeyette, Louisiana, late Friday afternoon in an attempt to get the attention of at least one of the state's two Democratic senators.

That lawmaker, Mary Landrieu, is a first-term senator who faces what could be a tough battle for re-election in 2002.

The second, John Breaux, is regarded as firmly entrenched. Still, Bush and his fellow Republicans wouldn't mind if state residents in favor of the tax cut got in touch with Breaux's office.

"All you need to do is pick up the phone, or send an e-mail to people who may not see it our way," Bush told a thick crowd of pro-tax relief Louisianans. "To me, that's what politics is all about. It's the will of the people."

The president delivered an identical speech Friday morning in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he encouraged residents there to exert pressure on their own Democratic senators.

"I'm going to remind the good folks in the nation's capital that we work for you," Bush told an enthusiastic crowd Friday morning. "It's your money we're talking about when it comes to setting budgets."

"You're one e-mail away from making a difference in somebody's attitude," Bush told the crowd.

"It's a matter of trust," he continued. "Once the priorities are met, once the debt is repaid, once money is set aside in case something goes wrong ... I want to tell the people of South Dakota that I trust you rather than the government when it comes to spending your own money."

One South Dakota senator won't bend

Of South Dakota's two Democratic senators, Bush knows he stands little chance of changing the mind of Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader. Daschle is leading the Democratic charge in the Senate against the Republican plan, and has called for a tax-cut package worth some $750 billion to $900 billion.

"President Bush and I both support a tax cut and I am confident that we can agree on a plan that benefits all Americans, not just the wealthy," Daschle said in a television spot aired locally.

"A tax cut not based on a risky 10-year (surplus) projection, but one that pays off our national debt, protects Social Security and strengthens Medicare to cover prescription drugs," he added.

Bush toured a Sioux Falls community health facility early Friday morning with Daschle before delivering his speech. He mentioned Daschle briefly in his address -- to a smattering of boos -- saying the minority leader deserved respect.

"I have appreciated the dialogues we have had," Bush said. "He treats me with respect, and I will treat him with respect."

South Dakota's other senator, Tim Johnson, faces an upcoming re-election campaign, and may be regarded as more easy to persuade by Bush's people.

Plan reduces tax rates

The bill that passed the House Thursday would gradually condense the current five income-tax rates of 15 percent, 28 percent, 31 percent, 36 percent and 39.6 percent. By 2006, the rates would reach 10 percent, 15 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent. The bill would create an interim 12 percent bracket retroactive to January 1, 2001, that would apply to every taxpayer's first several thousand dollars of income.

The measure, the centerpiece of the Bush tax proposal, could cost the federal government an estimated $958 billion -- money that would be recovered from the government's projected 10-year, $5.6 trillion surplus.

Passage of the quickly conceived tax bill followed several hours of intense debate that often belied the new bipartisanship proclaimed just weeks ago by members of both parties.

The House's 220 majority Republicans were joined by 10 Democrats to pass the measure. Of the chamber's two independent members, one voted for the bill and the other against. Five members of the House did not cast votes.

Most House Democrats were furious with the Republican majority for pushing the bill through the legislative process so quickly, and they dusted off a number of parliamentary tricks in an attempt to stall its progress.

Still, they had little chance to stop the measure since President Bush promoted before Congress last week the tax plan he has championed since the early days of his campaign for the White House.

Democrats criticize pushing bill through

Democrats were angered that the GOP leadership and the Bush administration have been so willful in their push to get the bill through the House so rapidly, saying it makes little sense for the Republicans to draft a tax cut before creating a fiscal year 2002 budget resolution.

The measure passed the House Ways and Means Committee on a party-line vote last Thursday, just one day after Bush sent a 207-page budget outline to Congress, and less than 48 hours after he addressed a joint session of the House and Senate in prime time.

A Democratic alternative that would have slashed taxes by some $600 billion over 10 years was rejected by the full House on a vote of 155-275. The Democratic plan, presented by Ways and Means ranking member Charles Rangel, D-New York, included a doubling of the standard deduction for married couples -- a facet not included in the Republican bill.

The Republicans have said they wish to get the tax rate changes passed first, and they plan to return later to issues such as marriage penalty relief and elimination of the estate tax.

Ian Christopher McCaleb and Reuters contributed to this report.

See related sites about Politics
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top