Con­ser­va­tives fear tax-in­crease deal

Bush may trade pledge for legacy

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has sent sig­nals since last month’s elec­tions that the pres­i­dent is pre­pared to ac­cept some tax in­creases on up­per-in­come fam­i­lies, wor­ry­ing con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and fis­cal con­ser­va­tive watch­dogs who say he will com­pro­mise with Democrats to win a legacy ac­com­plish­ment.

Th­ese moves come even as Democrats have pledged to rein in ear­marks, win­ning praise from the same con­ser­va­tive groups that are crit­i­ciz­ing Mr. Bush.

The watch­dog groups have been de­mand­ing that the pres­i­dent re­peat his ear­lier pledges not to raise taxes in or­der to re­form So­cial Se­cu­rity. But the White House has re­fused, with of­fi­cials say­ing ev­ery­thing is on the ta­ble, in­clud­ing tax in­creases.

“So far, no one in the ad­min­is­tra­tion has sim­ply stood up and said, ‘We will not raise pay­roll taxes in any way, shape or form,’ ” said Pete Sepp, a vice pres­i­dent for the Na­tional Tax­pay­ers Union, which led a coali­tion of sev­eral dozen groups to write a let­ter ask­ing for such an as­sur­ance.

Mean­while, the House’s top Repub­li­can on tax cuts, out­go­ing Ways and Means Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bill Thomas, warned two weeks ago that the White House has hinted that it will ac­cept a tax in­crease on higher-in­come fam­i­lies in or­der to win ac­com­mo­da­tions from Democrats.

“I wish I were a bit more com­fort­able in lis­ten­ing to some of the noises that are cur­rently be­ing made,” Mr. Thomas, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, told the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, say­ing he is see­ing signs that the ad­min­is­tra­tion may be “mov­ing away from hard-fought poli­cies to sal­vage what you thought you weren’t go­ing to get.”

“Based upon some state­ments made by peo­ple in prom­i­nent po­si­tions who deal with money within the ad­min­is­tra­tion, com­ments about the in­di­vid­ual top tax rate make me a lit­tle ner­vous,” he said.

The White House-con­gres­sional split high­lights a prob­lem that Mr. Bush is likely to face for the next two years: the in­creas­ing di­vi­sion be­tween Mr. Bush and his party as he works to find com­mon ground with Democrats and Repub­li­cans work to hold the line on tax cuts and other gains they made on the Repub­li­can agenda.

So­cial Se­cu­rity could be the first test. Since Novem­ber, Mr. Bush has said ev­ery­thing should be on the ta­ble in the ef­fort to fix the pro­gram’s fi­nances — a state­ment in sharp con­trast to his dec­la­ra­tion af­ter the 2004 elec­tions that “We will not raise pay­roll taxes to solve this prob­lem.”

Asked twice in re­cent weeks about the pres­i­dent’s plans, White House press sec­re­tary Tony Snow wouldn’t rule tax in­creases out.

“I’m not rul­ing it up and I’m not rul­ing it down, be­cause you know what, as you and I have seen in the past, def­i­ni­tions of th­ese things can be very squir­relly,” Mr. Snow told re­porters at one brief­ing.

“There is White House staff up on the Hill push­ing this,” said Phil Ker­pen, di­rec­tor of pol­icy for Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity, one of the watch­dogs. “There has been for months. They re­ally feel this is a legacy is­sue, and they’re will­ing to ac­cept com­pro­mise on pol­icy is­sues.”

It’s not just Mr. Bush who is look­ing for a deal on So­cial Se­cu­rity.

Sen. Mitch McCon­nell, the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can who will be­come the party’s Se­nate leader next year, also says all op­tions are on the ta­ble as he tries to force the is­sue onto the agenda.

“We all know this is an enor­mous prob­lem,” he told a farm group re­cently, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press. “We all know that it will get worse each year if not tack­led. Some­times, di­vided gov­ern­ment pro­duces very good re­sults on big is­sues.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.