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Bush, GOP Launch Coordinated Effort To Promote Tax Cuts

on 2/20/01.

USA Today (2/20, Keen, Weisman) reports, "President Bush, who has admitted he has 'a lot of work to do' to sell his $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax- cut plan, hits the road this week to try to build support." Bush "is counting on help from the Republican National Committee and conservative and business groups. In the
works: Tuesday in St. Louis, Bush will introduce 'tax families' who would save money under his plan. He used the same approach during the campaign and in a White House event two weeks ago. On Feb. 27, Bush will promote his proposal in a speech to a joint session of Congress." Vice President Cheney's "schedule includes time for interviews with reporters from local newspapers and TV and radio stations to promote the tax cut. The Republican National Committee is hosting online chats and taping dozens of TV and radio interviews daily with GOP proponents of tax cuts. And Bush aides have asked Republican lawmakers to hold 'tax events' promoting Bush's plan in their districts." USA adds, "Some conservative groups are encouraging their members to side with Bush. Americans for Tax Reform is asking Republican- controlled legislatures in 20 states to pass resolutions endorsing Bush's plan. The Michigan House has already passed one." USA also reports, "Business groups met Friday to form a coalition that will push the Bush plan through lobbying, outreach to their members and possibly an advertising campaign. Participants include the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors and the National Federation of Independent Business." The AP (2/20) reports, "Amid congressional doubts about his tax-cut plan, President Bush is hitting the road to rally public support for the proposal and the education reforms that are high among his budget priorities." Bush "hopes to curry support among Americans who polls say are in favor of reducing taxes but do not want those reductions to come at the expense of popular government programs such as aid to education and debt reduction." US News and World Report (2/26, Walsh) reports, "This week, the Rove Plan, as it is referred to by staffers, has Bush visiting with families of Oklahoma City bombing victims, and, once again, emphasizing tax cuts and education reform."

House Tax Writers Plan To OK Rate Cuts And Study Rest Of Plan Over Time. US News and World Report (2/26, Bedard) reports in its Washington Whispers column, "House tax writers on the Ways and Means Committee aren't buying President Bush 's all-at-once $1.6 trillion tax cut. A GOP member says the plan is to OK the tax-rate cuts that will provide the bulk of the benefits and then study the rest over time. Says a Bush aide: 'That's no good.'"

Congressional Republicans Irked By O'Neill's Stance On Tax Cut. On CNN (2/19, Inside Politics), Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak said Treasury Secretary Robert O'Neill "testified before the House Ways and Means Committee and I'm telling you not what the, some of the far out supply side right-wingers are saying, but the very strong friends of the Bush Administration were very concerned about Secretary O'Neill on two scores. One thing, he cannot bring himself to say that this tax cut is going to help the economy. He keeps saying it won't hurt. But that's not quite good enough. But what really bothers them is that he just about told them that if the Congress increases the size of the tax cut beyond the estimated $1.6 trillion over the next 10 years that he recommends a veto. Well, that is not what they wanted to hear from the Secretary of the Treasury."

New York Times Urges GOP Moderates To Reject Bush Tax Plan. The New York Times (2/20) editorializes, "For a while, President Bush's proposal for a $1.6 trillion tax cut seemed to be immune to the rules of legislative reality. Republicans who wanted to make it bigger seemed to outnumber Democrats wanting to cut it back. Last week, however, Mr. Bush got some sobering news from a leader of his own party, Senator Pete Domenici," who " reported to the White House that critics of the tax cut had begun making headway even among Republicans with the argument that it is too big, unfair and unlikely to help the economy." The Times adds, "We have been urging Democrats to stick together and fight the tax cuts. Today we urge moderate Republicans to listen to the tough appraisal of their own party colleagues." The Times notes that "the numbers demonstrating the inequity of the" Bush " tax cut are likely to become even more clear in the weeks to come, and Republicans who ignore them risk a bare-bones budget and booming deficits."

Outright Repeal Of Estate Taxes Seen As Unlikely. The Wall Street Journal (2/20, McKinnon, Murray) reports, "The death tax may be proving hard to kill. While chances remain strong in Congress for some kind of federal estate-tax rollback this year, it is looking increasingly doubtful that large estates will escape federal taxation altogether, as advocates had hoped." The Journal adds, "When the House starts hashing out its estate-tax cut some time in the next few weeks, it is likely to approve reforms that significantly reduce federal taxes on large estates, but don't quite erase them." In "the most likely scenario -- one that is already being quietly promoted by some GOP congressional leaders as well as advisers to President Bush," Congress "would repeal the current estate tax but place new capital-gains tax liability on assets inherited from estates above, say, $2 million or so." The tax " could be avoided as long as an heir held onto an inherited asset. But when the heir sold it, he or she would have to pay capital- gains tax on all the gain, including the gain that the previous owner had built up, perhaps over a lifetime." Newsweek (2/26, Naughton) reports on "a group of nearly 100 millionaires and billionaires who believe abolishing the tax would have a devastating effect on America by shifting the tax burden from the nation's richest 2 percent onto the poor and the middle class." Members of the group, " including investor George Soros and actor Paul Newman, are part of a gold- plated petition drive by rich Americans who advocate that the government continue taxing their estates by up to 55 percent. The campaign is being organized by Responsible Wealth, a group that includes the Rockefellers."

Charities Worried About Effects Of Hypothetical Estate Tax Repeal. CBS (2/19, story 9, Rather) reported last night, "Some charities are worried they could take another financial hit if Congress goes along with President Bush's plan to scrap the estate tax." CBS (Axelrod) added, "Father Bill Greenlaw does the Lord 's work and sets the President's example. His soup kitchen at New York's Holy Apostles Church serves 250,000 meals a year -- exactly the kind of faith-based service President Bush sees reducing government's role as a safety net. But Father Bill says while the President is asking charities to do more, he's proposing they do it with less by eliminating the estate tax." Greenlaw was shown saying, "It's crazy in my judgment to think about eliminating that so that the most wealthy of our society can become still more wealthy." CBS added, "It's a tax that can take more than half of a wealthy person's estate. To avoid it, people write wills that leave money to charities rather than the government. The IRS estimates between $14 and $16 billion are given away to avoid it each year." CBS (2/19, story 8, Rather) reported last night, "A report out today says some of America's biggest charitable foundations have been hit hard by the declining stock market. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, foundation assets declined in 2000 for the first time in ten years. About 10% of the foundations say they expect to give less to charity this year."

Washington State GOP Legislators Rally Support For Bush Tax Cut. The AP (2/19, Ammons) reported, "One of President Bush's 'tax families' joined a phalanx of Republican legislators" in Olympia, Washington for "a Presidents Day effort to drum up support for a huge federal tax cut." Several "hundred people, most members of a conservative group called Washington Citizens for a Sound
Economy, buttonholed their legislators Monday with a plea for smaller, cheaper, less restrictive state government." The group "packed a House hearing room to support a legislative resolution urging Congress to pass President Bush's 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut plan." The "nonbinding resolution has no hope of emerging from committee, given the House's 49-49 Republican- Democrat split, but GOP sponsors nonetheless wanted to use the event as a way to focus public attention on the president's plan." House Republican Co-Speaker Clyde Ballard "and one of the president's 'tax families' touted the proposal as a way to help average families, not just the rich." All Washington state Republican legislators "have signed a letter endorsing the president's plan." Kathleen Baxter and "daughters Madeline and Meagan, an Edmonds 'tax family' Bush uses to illustrate the impact of his tax plan on ordinary families, attended a House Finance Committee hearing on the resolution."