WASHINGTON -- There is no rush in Congress to embrace President-elect Bush's package of tax cuts, even as a tonic to the ailing economy.
Republican chairmen of the tax-writing committees have their own priorities, and even GOP freshmen prefer to focus on eliminating the income tax marriage penalty.
Moments after he was chosen chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Bill Thomas took a wait-and-see approach when asked about Bush's 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax relief proposal that includes gradual across-the-board income tax cuts.
"President-elect Bush ran on some particular ideas about the tax code. We're going to share our ideas," said Thomas, R-Calif.
His Republican Senate counterpart, incoming Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa, expressed doubts this week about the political viability of Bush's package.
"I don't think it would fly right today," Grassley said.
Instead of lining up behind Bush's plan yesterday, the 28 House Republican freshmen announced that their top issue as a group this year would be one piece of that plan: erasing the marriage tax penalty paid by millions of married couples.
"It sends the message that the 28 of us are coming in totally dedicated to passing tax relief," said Rep. Ed Schrock of Virginia, president of the freshman class.
House leaders have counseled Bush that moving his tax cuts as separate bills -- starting with the marriage penalty measure and one eliminating estate taxes -- would translate into bipartisan victories, setting the stage for more tax relief later. …