Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Democrats Yield on Gas Tax Repeal Senate Could Vote as Soon as Today

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Democrats Yield on Gas Tax Repeal Senate Could Vote as Soon as Today

Article excerpt

Senate Democrats conceded Monday that a temporary repeal of the 1993 gasoline tax increase was unavoidable.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole said the Senate could vote as soon as today on the tax cut, which he proposed less than two weeks ago. He plan ned to discuss the timing, as well as a Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage, with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

"We think (it) is inevitable," Daschle said. Republicans are "in the majority. They have the votes to pass legislation."

The leading proposal for paying for the cut, according to House and Senate aides, is separate legislation that strengthens the government fund insuring savings and loan deposits. That plan requires a one-time premium payment from savings and loans, and, under budget rules, the money can be used to offset the tax cut. GOP leaders also are looking at a cut in Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary's travel budget.

President Bill Clinton's administration supports the thrift legislation, and Daschle said he was "not necessarily averse" to using it to cut the gas tax.

Republican leaders are pushing hard for the repeal, which is seen as having wide popular appeal. Dole, R-Kan., Clinton's rival in the presidential race, has noted repeatedly that the tax increase was approved "without a single Republican vote."

Many Democrats are criticizing the tax cut, saying it could amount to a windfall for the oil companies who pay the tax and ultimately pass it on to the consumer. And environmentalists maintain that the tax cut would encourage more energy consumption and hurt the environment.

Repeal is "attractive as a matter of raw politics, but it is terrible as a matter of public policy," said Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va. "Just as we were beginning to make sustained progress in bringing down the deficit . . . we blink. We can't take the political heat."

However, some Democrats feel compelled to vote for the tax cut, and Republicans are almost unanimously for it. Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary, said Clinton wanted the tax cut considered as part of a balanced budget. …

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