Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GOP Agrees to Lesser Tax Cut Action Seeks to Avoid Veto

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

GOP Agrees to Lesser Tax Cut Action Seeks to Avoid Veto

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Congressional Republicans agreed yesterday to give final approval to a less costly version of the marriage penalty tax cut in hopes of persuading President Clinton to reverse his previous veto threats.

"I want to get something on his desk that's signable," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Under the agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators, millions of married couples would get tax relief this calendar year, but their total tax cut would be lower than envisioned by earlier GOP bills.

Preliminary estimates put the bill's total revenue cost at $89 billion over five years. That compares with a 10-year, $248 billion version passed Tuesday by the Senate, and the House's competing bill costing $182 billion over 10 years. A 10-year estimate for the compromise was not available, but the agreement is closer to the House version.

The compromise was expected to pass both houses of Congress by today at the earliest, which would force the president to decide whether to sign or veto the bill before the end of the Republican National Convention, which starts July 31.

Elimination of the tax code's marriage penalty, in which an estimated 25 million couples pay more than they would if single, is the centerpiece of the GOP's election-year tax cut agenda.

Because the bill was passed under budget rules limiting amendments and debate, all of the changes would phase out on Dec. 31, 2004. That means a future Congress would have to make the tax cut permanent, or married couples would suddenly get hit with a tax increase in 2005.

The Republicans' decision to send Clinton a less costly bill comes as the White House has stepped up criticism that huge GOP tax cuts could rapidly deplete the budget surplus.

The White House chief of staff, John Podesta, said in a letter yesterday to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. …

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