House OKs Tax Package’s ‘Heart,’ Democrats Object
The House yesterday approved, by a 230-198 margin, the "heart" of President Bush's 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut plan -- a 10-year, $958 billion across-the-board income tax reduction -- amid complaints from Democrats that the bill would hamper other initiatives, the New York Times reports. In the vote, cast largely on party lines, no Republicans voted against the bill, and only 10 Democrats, "mostly Southerners from districts that voted heavily" for Bush, "broke ranks" to back the measure. Democrats attacked the bill as too large and too skewed toward the wealthiest Americans (Rosenbaum, New York Times, 3/9). They argued that Congress should not pass a "big tax cut" without "weigh[ing] the demand" against "competing claims on the surplus," such as Medicare reform (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 3/9). "Will we have the funds to do what [Bush] wants to do, what we want to do ... ? Will we be able to take care of Medicare?" House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) asked. The bill now moves to the Senate, where "the prospects [of Bush's plan] are uncertain" (New York Times, 3/9). This week, Senate Democrats have "stepp[ed] up their argument" that Bush's tax cut package would "eat up" most of the budget surplus and leave "little or nothing" for a prescription drug benefit under Medicare Still, Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) predicted that a tax bill would become law "before spring turns to summer" (New York Times, 3/8).