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Voinovich standing firm on $350 billion tax-cut limit

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio

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Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, earned a reputation as a tightwad governor. Now he's taking on the White House. CNN's Bruce Morton looks at his record (April 25)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite a presidential visit to his state and a presidential admonition against "a little, bitty tax-relief package," Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio vowed Sunday to stand firm on limiting a tax cut to $350 billion.

"You got it. And anybody that knows George Voinovich knows that when I say something I mean it," the moderate Republican told NBC's Meet the Press.

President Bush originally proposed more than $700 billion in new tax cuts, including the elimination of the tax on dividends. The House trimmed the package to $550 billion, which the Bush administration said it could work with.

But in the Senate, Voinovich and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, refused to support any tax cut of more than $350 billion. Together with Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and John McCain of Arizona, who oppose tax cuts of any size, they have helped Democrats block Bush from getting his full package passed.

Bush promoted his tax plan in speeches last week in the Ohio cities of Canton and Lima, in other words, in Voinovich's political back yard.

"It's been interpreted as one of (Bush) coming to Ohio to try and pressure me to support 550 (billion-dollar tax cut) when he knows that I'm locked in at 350 (billion dollars)," Voinovich said. "I think the timing of it made it look bad, in terms of his trying to put some pressure on me. I don't believe that's what he had in mind, but it certainly has been interpreted that way in our state."

Voinovich said a $550 billion cut would be "fiscally irresponsible ... with the debt we're carrying and the uncertainty -- we really don't know yet how much more the Iraq war costs."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa said Sunday he would have supported Bush's full $550 billion program "if we could get it passed."

"We have about 48 votes for it, and obviously you don't pass anything in the United States Senate with 48 votes," Grassley told Fox News Sunday.

On CBS's Face the Nation, two other Republican senators took different stands on the tax cut issue.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who supported Bush's original $700-billion-plus tax cut proposal, said he wanted "a tax cut with a purpose.

"With the economy being sluggish as it is, even though there are some signs of improvement, now is the time to put money back into the economy with a purpose, and that's to create jobs," Graham said.

"If we're going to have a tax cut, let's make sure it does the things necessary to create jobs and not undermine the president's efforts. And I think we're undermining his efforts now without any real logical reason," he said.

But fellow Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said he opposed any tax cut, but voted for the $350 billion Senate limit just to get away from Bush's original $700-billion-plus proposal.

"I don't approve of any new tax cuts until we can control our spending and address these deficits," Chafee said.

"What I'm trying to figure (is) why these conservatives are pushing the bigger and bigger tax cuts when, traditionally, conservatives have been opposed to deficits," Chafee said.

"If we get these big deficits, then the pressure will be on to strangle the spending," he said, "to strangle what is called the 'wasteful social spending,' whether it's Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security ... Head Start programs or Pell Grants. I think that's the tactic."

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