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Bush, administration figures to stump for deeper tax cuts

White House considers phased-in cuts

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

President Bush, carrying his dog Barney, heads to Air Force One to return to Washington from Texas Monday.
President Bush, carrying his dog Barney, heads to Air Force One to return to Washington from Texas Monday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As President Bush mounts a public campaign for more tax cuts, senior administration officials said Monday the White House has not ruled out pushing for tax reductions that would exceed limits set by Congress.

One strategy under consideration by the White House: phasing in some of those cuts over several years.

Some negotiations and compromise appear inevitable. The House of Representatives has already scaled back Bush's original $726 billion, 10-year plan to $350 billion, while the Senate has approved a $350 billion cap on new tax cuts.

Last week, Bush declared that tax cuts of "at least" $550 billion are needed to stimulate the economy and promote jobs growth.

Bush will promote his view again Thursday during a stop in Canton, Ohio -- the home state of one of the moderate Republicans who forced Senate GOP leaders to scale back the Bush tax cut request.

Senior Bush advisers say they hope state residents who support a bigger tax cut make their views known to Sen. George Voinovich. But the administration is taking other steps in hopes of winning the backing of Voinovich and perhaps that of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who also bucked the White House on the tax-cut measure.

Both have cited concerns about the growing federal deficit in their call for shrinking the president's tax cut proposal, and administration officials say there are efforts at the White House and at the Treasury Department to identify ways to "offset" -- or pay for -- additional tax cuts.

The end result of the tax cut debate is probably two or three months away. But there will be key moments along the way -- as committees in both the House and Senate begin to shape and then vote on competing proposals.

Administration officials say there are a number of ways to achieve the president's tax-cut policy goals within a smaller price tag than his initial $726 billion request. Among them:

• Cutting taxes on dividends only by half initially -- and then phasing in additional cuts over a period of several years.

• Phase in reductions of the top personal income tax rate, instead of -- as the president proposed -- cutting it from 38.6 percent to 35 percent this year.

• Separating out, into other legislation, proposals to ease the so-called marriage penalty and increase child credits.

But for now, senior officials say these and other ideas are just that -- ideas -- and that it would be at least another week and perhaps longer before the administration is engaged in negotiations at that level of detail.

"Well, he's said at least $550 billion," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Monday as the president made his way back to Washington from Crawford, Texas. "So, as I said, there are a number of ways to work with Congress to try to accomplish this, and we're in the process of doing that right now."

Buchan said about 30 Cabinet members and other senior officials would be traveling during the two-week Easter congressional recess, to about 75 events to promote the president's views on tax cuts.

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