|CLINTON VETOES TAX PLAN|
September 23, 1999
President Clinton vetoed the $800 billion Republican tax plan in a Rose Garden ceremony today. After a background report, Reps. David Bonior and J.C. Watts discuss where Congress's tax debate will go from here.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Two views on the political fallout from today's veto. Representative J.C. Watts of Oklahoma is the chairman of the House Republican conference. Representative David Bonior of Michigan is the Democratic whip. Representative Watts, what do you think about what the President did today and what you just heard him say?
|Congressional reaction to the veto|
REP. J. C. WATTS: Well, that's unfortunate. The President, in my opinion... I think he turned his back on those poor communities out there that had some relief in this bill through the American Community Renewal Act, rural America, working family, those single moms out there working from paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. We were proposing over the next ten years, to give the American people three pennies back of every dollar that they make. I think that's... I thought that was fair.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Congressman Watts, what about what the President said, that if you can cooperate, you can still come up with something?
REP. J. C. WATTS: Well, you know, the President has yet to come to the table or contact us about negotiating anything. The President said today in his address that he had sent us a Medicare reform package. I was absent from school, I guess, the day that happened because I don't remember getting anything. So, the President says these things, but we would be more than willing to talk to the President about giving the American people tax relief.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Bonior, how do you see the possibility for a compromise tax cut bill?
REP. DAVID BONIOR: Well, I think we need to do first things first. Of course, the problem with this tax bill was that it exploded the deficit, which would have, of course, raised interest rates which would have, in fact, been the cruelest tax on working men and women in this country: Higher interest rates on mortgages, credit cards, higher interest rates on auto loans. An interest rate increase of 1 percent on a $100,000 home mortgage is about $70 a month.
Having said all that, the answer to your question Elizabeth -- I'm hopeful that we can get together and deal with the priorities that the President laid out, including some tax legislation that will give a benefit to working men and women. Social Security strengthening, Medicare strengthening, dealing with the educational needs of our country are priority items. The President also suggested and I would also concur that working men and women in this country deserve a tax break. And I think the proportionality of that bill ought to fit in with the other issues that I have raised.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Watts, can any of the bill, as you wrote it, be salvaged -- the removal of the marriage tax penalty, for example?
REP. J. C. WATTS: Well, I think the marriage tax penalty is very important. That creates tax fairness to say you should not be penalized $1,200 more per year for being married.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: There are elements of the bill that both parties support. Can some of those get through, short of some big compromise bill?
REP. J. C. WATTS: I've got to tell you. I don't think the President wants tax relief. His budget proposes over the next 10 years $938 billion in new spending, so you know, if you take $792 billion and give it back to the American people, that's going to cut those new spending needs short. And we've been saying all along, if you don't send the money back home, Washington's going to spend it.
And so... but there's plenty out there when you consider what we have in the package. We've got the marriage tax penalty, and we eliminate that. The death tax, relief for poor communities, across the board tax cut -- we've got relief in there for educational needs to help families take care of their senior loved ones. All this was in this package which made a very sound package.
|Just political posturing?|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I want to ask you both and, beginning with you, Congressman Bonior, the conventional wisdom is that neither party really wanted this to pass, that this was political posturing, that it serves both parties' interest to have this deadlocked. What is your response to that?
REP. DAVID BONIOR: I want a tax cut for the American people, working people. No, this was not posturing on our behalf. We would like something that fits into the proportionality question that I raised earlier. This was way out of line. You know; sending money home to the American people is something that we're for. But under this particular bill, Elizabeth, a family making $300,000 a year or more would on average, get about $46,000 a year in a tax cut. A family making $52,000 a year would get about $11 a day.
There was no sense of fairness to this -- no sense of proportionality. So, yes, I think we need to come together. We can agree on the marriage penalty. We can agree on family farm relief. We can agree on some small business relief. But we can also, I think, work towards targeting it to working middle-income people in this country. And that's not what this bill did.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. And, Congressman Watts, reply briefly to that but then to the overall question about whether the Republicans really wanted a deal.
REP. J. C. WATTS: Well, based on my friend's numbers, what people get back, we obviously disagree on those numbers. I don't see how it's bad for the economy and for the American people for them to get some of their money back to do what they need to do with it. That's good for the economy. That's good for interest rates. That's good for keeping inflation down and strengthening the economy to allow people to have their money back.
We wanted this tax relief package, this tax fairness package because it helps a lot of people. It helps every single taxpayer out there to get some of their money back. So we will continue to fight for this relief, to fight for tax fairness because it's not only important, but it's the right thing to do.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So, your response to the charge that it's all political posturing is just that that's not true.
REP. J. C. WATTS: I disagree with that. We've actually had tax cuts or tax relief every year that the Republicans have been in the majority. So we've got a track record for giving the American people their money back.
REP. DAVID BONIOR: Elizabeth, I just wanted to mention that I just watched Bill Archer, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the Republican chairman, who on the floor just a few minutes ago said he was stunned that the President vetoed this bill. Well, everybody in America, everybody in the world who pays attention to this stuff knew for months that the President was going to veto this bill. So when you ask the question, are they posturing, there is some posturing going on here.
But the real question is, are we going to move forward on the other issues that are important as well as tax relief for middle income people, and that is taking care of Medicare, prescription drugs for our elderly, making sure that we have Social Security solvent for baby boomers and for their children. These are all important questions. The education piece begs to be addressed. There will be no room for any of these reforms in the areas that I just talked about if you pass a trillion-dollar tax cut that goes primarily to the wealthiest people.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Congressman Watts, what is happening now with the appropriations bills? Can you get - I think there are 13, right?
REP. J. C. WATTS: Right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Appropriations bills that you need to get passed by September 30th, the end of the fiscal year. Can you get that done? Will there be a train wreck with the government closed again?
REP. J. C. WATTS: No, I don't think there will be. I think we're going to get our work done. We've gotten 12 of those 13 bills passed through the House. The 13th appropriations bill, we marked it up today, it was labor, HHS. So we're going to have our work done. And not only did we do our work or will we have our work done at the end of the day, but we wanted tax relief. And tax relief that pays down the national debt, we did that...$2.2 trillion over the next ten years. We take every dollar that comes into Social Security and Medicare, set it aside for those programs. We call that the locked box. But it's protecting Social Security's Trust Fund. This is good for the economy, it's good for Social Security, and it's good for Medicare. And it's good to pay down our national debt. We've done all those things.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. And, Congressman Bonior, what do you think? Will the President sign the appropriations bills, since they've been passed?
REP. DAVID BONIOR: Well, there have only been four sent to the President. And we have 13 of them. We have a week left in the session. We have not accomplished very much in this Congress. The President is going - I think he's got veto messages out on about half of the appropriation bills. We have to work very hard. As the President said, we need to stay here to get this business done, the appropriation process. We need to stay here to get the Medicare issue resolved with prescription drug care and those cuts on hospitals and nursing homes, making sure that that doesn't happen because we've gone too far in that area. And we need to stay and do the education reforms.
|A key issue for Election 2000?|
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So, Congressman Watts, are we hearing here in this debate between the two of you a key debate for the election year that's coming up? Is this sort of the... is the veto the kickoff for this debate? And will it be a big part of the campaign?
REP. J. C. WATTS: Let me first say that I do agree with my friend that we do need to take care of those home health issues, those hospital issues out there. We've got some things on the table as we speak to make sure that we do that. But giving the American people tax relief... I am willing to go back home and Republican members, we're willing to go back home and say to our constituents, yes, we fought to give you tax relief and bring about tax fairness and let them be the judge of... let them determine on how they want to judge us on election day. This is an issue that Republicans... that we're willing to win or lose on because when the American people pay more in taxes than they pay on food, clothing and shelter combined, we believe that's too much.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Congressman Bonior?
REP. DAVID BONIOR: Well, we also believe in a tax cut but for middle-income people. We don't want it targeted to the wealthiest corporations and individuals. This bill had a $37 billion tax relief for multinational corporations, insurance companies, banks, to invest abroad. That is not in line with the priorities of our party. We want to target it to middle-income people. And we want those other issues, Medicare, Social Security, and education to receive the attention they deserve. They can't under the bill they proposed because that trillion dollar bill squeezes out everything else.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Thank you both very much.