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Congressional clash looms on taxes, Social Security

Republicans, Democrats list legislative priorities

January 19, 1999
Web posted at: 2:24 p.m. EDT (1424 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, January 19) -- Senate Republicans called for a 10 percent tax cut as leaders of both parties on Tuesday introduced dueling agendas for the new Congress.

congress
Congress begins work on its legislative agenda  

Also in this story:

In presenting its legislative priorities, the Republican majority hopes to show that the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton is not a distraction from doing the country's business. Democrats are less optimistic.

Neither party, however, offered proposals for what is expected to be one of the year's top issues: How to shore up the politically sensitive Social Security program for the baby boomers' looming retirement.

Both were waiting to hear from Clinton -- who, in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, will outline initiatives to shore up Social Security.

But his plan includes no income tax cuts, and thus is certain to set up conflicts with many Republicans who want some of the budget surplus spent to reduce taxes.

Clinton's Social Security plan

Instead, Clinton will propose putting much of the federal government's projected budget surpluses in Social Security's trust fund, investing some of the surplus in the stock market and subsidizing 401(k)-style accounts that would exist in addition to Social Security benefits, but not replace them.

Trent Lott
Sen. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R)  

Republicans also stressed the need for a plan to save the Social Security system, something they say President Clinton has promised, but failed to deliver.

"He's got to show us the specifics," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi).

    In addition to reforming Social Security, Senate Republicans' other priorities are to:

  • Cut income taxes for all Americans by 10 percent. "We need to support, and strongly support, a 10 percent across the board (tax cut), so that everybody is going to see significant ... benefits on April 15," said Sen. Rod Grams (R-Minnesota).

  • Give communities more power over schools and limit federal controls.

  • Boost military salaries and pensions.

  • Increase anti-drug efforts. The GOP's "Drug-free Century Act" calls for improvements in drug treatment, education, prevention and domestic law enforcement.

The announcement by each party of its first five bills of the new Congress is a biennial ritual that each uses to publicize its top priorities.

    Democrats' top bills would:

  • Expand the rights of HMO (health maintenance organization) patients.

  • Beef up resources for hiring and training teachers.

  • Boost the minimum wage and cut taxes for many couples.

  • Move against crime and illegal drugs.

  • Expand access to Medicare for many older Americans.

As they announced their measures, Democratic leaders blamed Republicans for killing similar initiatives last year.

Tom Daschle
Sen. Minority Leader
Tom Daschle (D)
 

"The American people are waiting for us to act," Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, said on the Senate floor. "They've been waiting, frankly, too long."

Legislative work will begin slowly as usual, with little but committee work going on this month.

But with polls showing most members of the public disenchanted with GOP efforts to remove Clinton from office, Republicans are especially interested in demonstrating that they are eager to address issues of concern to voters.

"This year I think we're much further ahead than what we've done in past years," said Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colorado). "I think President Clinton and the trial have done us a favor," he told CNN.

Correspondent Jonathan Karl and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

RELATED STORIES

In the shadow of impeachment, budget surplus debate looms (1-18-99)

Budget surpluses expected to grow more than projected (1-16-99)


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MORE STORIES:

Tuesday January 19, 1999

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