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KWAME HOLMAN: Republicans hold a clear majority in the House of Representatives and almost always will have the last say on an idea, even if it wasn’t theirs to begin with. That was the case yesterday as Republicans answered the Democrats’ demand for an increase in the child tax credit for low-income families left out of the big tax cut package signed by the president last month. Republicans agreed to the increase, but then added much more new tax cuts totaling $82 billion. House Majority leader Tom DeLay.
REP. TOM DeLAY: You said working Americans needed additional tax relief, and you know what, the Republicans could not agree more with you.
KWAME HOLMAN: House democrats didn’t have the votes to stop the Republicans, and weren’t allowed to offer a tax cut plan of their own. The Republican plan passed with only a handful of defections on either side. What democrats did do was play to the television cameras during the floor debate to make their point that Republicans simply were going to the $82 billion cost of their tax cuts to the mounting federal deficit.
SPOKESMAN: Under House rules I’m going to ask our colleagues to help us.
KWAME HOLMAN: Charlie Stenholm of Texas and Mississippi’s Gene Taylor had choreographed, with apparently little rehearsal, a presentation to illustrate the size of the national debt.
REP. GENE TAYLOR: I’m going to ask my colleagues to step to their right, because we are going to need four more of our colleagues to come forward.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the speaker’s chair at the time was Ohio Republican Paul Gillmor, who was not going to permit the demonstration.
REP. PAUL GILLMOR: Although a member may supplement oratory with a visual age, aid, he may not state an explanation and no other members should traffic the well.
KWAME HOLMAN: Texas Democrat Martin Frost protested the ruling of the chair just long enough for the Democrats to make their point.
REP. MARTIN FROST: So what you’re saying is that the members who are standing in the well right now, the ones who are in the well with 914878724, I can’t read the rest of that. 867, that they’re out of order for advising the country…
REP. PAUL GILLMOR: In the opinion of the chair
KWAME HOLMAN: House Republicans will face more formidable opposition to their tax cut bill in the Senate, which approved its own bill last week with the overwhelming support of Republicans and Democrats. There are big differences between the two versions, possibly too big to reconcile. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley says it highlights the differences in style between the two chambers.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: It’s the orientation of the two houses. One, if you get anything done, it has to be done in a bipartisan way. In the other House, it’s the tradition to do things more in a partisan way.
KWAME HOLMAN: Both bills increase child tax credit benefits to 6.5 half million low income families. The Senate bill does so immediately; the House not until next year. The House bill also expands the number of families eligible to benefit from the child tax credit from those earning $110,000 to those earning $150,000. The House extends the life of the child tax credit increase from 2004 through 2010. And the House bill costs $82 billion, and is not offset by raising other revenues. The Senate’s bill costs $10 billion and is offset. Michigan Democrat Sander Levin said the Senate never would agree to a tax cut package of that size.
REP. SANDER LEVIN: So what they are doing is a bill with a huge, huge addition to the deficit. Maybe you hope that they will kill this bill when it goes over to the Senate. There is a kind of a legislative machoism going on here: We are going to show the Senate at the cost of the people of this country.
KWAME HOLMAN: California Republican David Dreier said it was too soon to speculate and cited the differences House and Senate Republicans managed to work out over the previous tax cut bill.
REP. DAVID DREIER: I think it’s wrong for the House of Representatives, the people’s House who has a representative here in behalf of between six and seven hundred thousand Americans to simply kowtow to action over there….
KWAME HOLMAN: Neither Senator Grassley, nor Max Baucus, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, would speculate on what might happen when negotiators from the two chambers sit down to work out their differences. But yesterday, House Ways and Means Chairman Thomas gave the impression House Republicans wouldn’t give up as much ground on this tax bill as they did on the last one.
REP. BILL THOMAS: You want politics; you want policy. Politics is cheap, policy costs money. We’re asking you to put your dollars where your mouth is. If the Senate has provisions in their measure that they want to bring to conference that we didn’t include, we invite them. But we invite them to a conference that does policy and not politics. And I yield back the balance of my time.