Senate Passes Measure to Reduce Bush’s Tax Cut
On a 53-47 vote, the Senate yesterday approved an amendment "slic[ing]" $450 billion from President Bush's 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut package -- which Democrats maintain would "destroy Medicare" -- to provide additional funding for education programs and debt reduction, the Washington Post reports. Four Republicans, including Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), James Jeffords (Vt.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.), voted with Democrats to pass the measure, while Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) "was the only Democrat" to oppose the provision. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) also voted for the measure, but only to "permi[t] him under Senate rules to later call for a revote." According to the Post, the vote dealt an "unexpected and significant blow" to the Bush administration's "top legislative priority" (Kessler/Dewar, Washington Post, 4/5). Senate Democrats have maintained that Bush's tax cut would "consume too much" of the projected $5.6 trillion surplus and have proposed amendments to "set aside" more funding for Medicare and other government programs. In response, Republicans have "generally" supported additional funding for "popular programs," such as a prescription drug benefit under Medicare, but "called for them to be financed from a reserve fund."
Although Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.) called the vote a "setback," he said, "Hopefully we can restore most of the tax cut money. We're going to pass the largest tax cut we can" (Hosler,
Baltimore Sun, 4/5). Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) added, "The war isn't over yet" (Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 4/5). Lott said, "When we get through the budget process and get to tax relief, we're going to have a tax cut in the $1.6 trillion range. Along the way, there will be some bumps in the road. It's typical" (Baltimore Sun, 4/5). However, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said the vote was a "repudiation of the president's policies and priorities," adding that Bush "can no longer ignore the fact that he's losing strength by the day" (Kuhnhenn/Koszczuk, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/5). "This is a huge victory," Daschle said (Welch, USA Today, 4/5). He called Republicans who voted against the measure "harsh and right-wing with absolutely no ... appreciation for compassion," adding, "They are willing to destroy Medicare so they can continue to worship at the altar of tax cuts" (Washington Post, 4/5).