TAX CUTS: ‘Common Ground’ Includes Health Provisions
House and Senate conferees, comprising members from the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees, went into closed session last night in an effort to reconcile a tax bill that both chambers may approve by the August recess. CongressDaily/A.M. reports that conferees "stressed their common ground," immediately adopting "scores of provisions that are identical in both bills," including some deductions for purchasing health insurance. Those common provisions, however, "add up to only $31 billion in tax relief, a small fraction of the $792 billion mark" (Norton, 8/3). Still, Senate Finance Committee Chair William Roth (R-DE) said, "The issues that unite us far exceed any differences that might divide us" (Stevenson, New York Times, 8/3). The Tampa Tribune reports that Republicans are operating under a schedule that calls for House passage of the compromise bill on Thursday, with the Senate to follow on Friday. The GOP then plans to "trumpet the benefits of their measure during Congress' long August recess, then send the bill to [President] Clinton for the expected veto after Labor Day" (8/3). But Senate Budget Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM) is urging a delay in the final vote "to avert a showdown with President Clinton that would likely result in no major tax legislation this year" (Pianin/Eilperin, Washington Post, 8/3).
Also yesterday, House Ways and Means ranking member Charles Rangel (D-NY) forced a vote on a motion to send the House bill back to committee with instructions to limit the size of a tax cut to no more than one-quarter of any non-Social Security surplus. He argued that preserving Medicare and Social Security, adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare and paying down the debt should be higher priorities. The measure went down to defeat, 213-205. Ways and Means Chair Bill Archer stressed on the floor that Democrats "once urged against tax cuts until the budget was balanced, but uttered not a word about Social Security and Medicare." He said, "My, how things change" (CongressDaily/A.M., 8/3). Archer yesterday also pleaded with the president to reconsider his veto promise. He said, "Please reconsider your staunch opposition to giving the people their money back. Please resist the temptation to spend this budget surplus on more government programs" (Washington Post, 8/3).