It didn't take Earl Pomeroy long to figure out that the Bush tax
cut was on a fast track through the House - with big-time lobby
power behind it.
Phone calls and e-mails asking the North Dakota Democrat to send
a big part of the surplus back to taxpayers started rolling in only
hours after the president's budget address last week. And many
sounded alike, a clear sign of an organized lobbying effort.
But while this grass-roots blitz is gaining ground, an even
greater sign of the bill's strength can be seen in the lobbying
that isn't going on - on behalf of the business community.
Since President Bush's plan offers little in the way of corporate
tax breaks, many in Washington expected businesses would quickly
move to pile on additional cuts - possibly going so far as to hurt
the bill's chances of success. But so far, corporate lobbyists have
shown surprising restraint.
It's yet another sign of the administration's firm hand - and
shrewd maneuvering - in getting its supporters to fall in line. And
while the real tax fight will undoubtedly come later in the Senate,
the Bush team appears to have sidestepped, at least for now, the
GOP temptation to lard the bill.
"We're supporting the president's tax package," says Mark
Bloomfield, president of the American Council for Capital
Formation, which has organized the drive for corporate tax breaks
"We also support additional pieces that would be consistent with
support of the president's proposals. But we won't do this until the
president's plan gets through," he says. "Otherwise, there might be
a feeding frenzy, and the president's bill would be jeopardized."
Last week, most of the seats in the cavernous Ways and Means
Committee room were empty. Usually, a vote on a $958 billion tax
bill would turn out K Street in force, with everyone from ranchers
to restaurateurs to silicon-chip manufacturers looking to add a few
lines to the tax code that will help their business.
"When there are tax breaks, the line usually goes around the
corner," says a Democratic committee staffer.
But so far, the White House is holding the line with businesses
that this bill must focus on lowering tax rates for individuals. In
fact, the administration has even won agreement from big industry
groups to do some of the heavy lifting to get the bill through
Congress - clean - and to hold off on their own agendas until the
Bush tax plan passes.
So far, the strategy is holding. Business lobbyists have been
meeting with the GOP House leadership to coordinate strategy on the
plan. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they are not
seeing a lot of special-interest pleading to expand the tax cut for
"So far, I haven't been lobbied on this at all. It will all be
coming in the next tax bill," says Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) of
Connecticut, a leading member of the House Ways and Means
Ironically, while the public has been cool to the idea of a big
tax cut, the corporate world is not. …