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Gephardt: No going back on Bush tax cuts

Gephardt: "The tax bill that's in force is not my tax bill. I would have done it very differently. But we lost."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite a dwindling budget surplus, trying to repeal or delay President Bush's tax cuts would be a "waste of time," Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said Saturday.

With federal surplus projections dwindling, some Democrats have suggested that some tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers set to take effect after 2003 could be put off or repealed completely.

But Gephardt, D-Missouri, told CNN he was not interested in revisiting the $1.35 trillion tax cut package, which passed Congress in May.

"The tax bill that's in force is not my tax bill. I would have done it very differently. But we lost. It is a waste of time to [revisit] that question at this point," Gephardt said on CNN's "Novak, Hunt and Shields."

Instead, Gephardt called for House and Senate leaders to sit down with Bush "in a respectful, trusting way, as we have on terrorism," and work out a plan to boost long-term economic growth.

"If all we do is throw rhetorical bombs at one another, stand in the positions we've been in for the last eight months, nothing is going to happen that's good for the people," he said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, has called for putting off $350 billion in scheduled tax reductions, saying the Bush tax cuts were approved "in what now seems a very different and distant time."

Kennedy said the tax cuts he would push back would affect only the wealthiest taxpayers.

The White House has tried to paint such a move as a tax increase, and with midterm elections coming up few senior Democrats have followed Kennedy's lead.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has been sharply critical of the tax cuts but has stopped short of calling for their repeal.

Gephardt told CNN that changing the tax package was not possible in the face of opposition from Bush and Republicans in Congress.

"I think you've got to sit down with people who have to be involved in the discussion. The president has to sign or not sign legislation. The majority in the House has to decide whether or not to bring up legislation," he said.

The House Democratic leader also said he thinks that House Republicans, rather than President Bush, have been the impediment to bipartisan progress on an economic stimulus package, airline security and other issues.

Gephardt said congressional GOP leaders "have been out of step with what everybody else wants to do."

Gephardt singled out House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, both from Texas.

"We could have had a stimulus package in 10 minutes," he said. "It was House Republicans who insisted on a $25 billion tax cut, going back 15 years, for the largest corporations in America."

Gephardt was referring to a proposal, passed by the House, which would have repealed the minimum corporate tax that has been in force since 1986 -- an idea not supported by the White House.




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