Cheney: Bush to move quickly on schools, taxes

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President-elect George W. Bush will push Congress to act quickly on his conservative agenda, starting with education reform and school vouchers, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney said Sunday.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Congress are advising Bush to initiate his tax-cutting agenda with some attainable changes like repealing inheritance taxes and ending the so-called marriage penalty paid by two-earner couples.

Education reform likely will be Bush’s first proposal to Congress, and his plan will include offering vouchers to families in failing public schools, Cheney said.

Under Bush’s plan, public schools with large numbers of low-income children would be given three years to improve student test scores or risk losing federal funds to the voucher program.

But voucher plans have been defeated in the courts and in legislatures. Last week, a federal appeals court struck down Cleveland’s state-issued vouchers.

On other issues, Cheney said:

  • Bush will pursue his Social Security privatization plan, but that is a "tougher problem from a political standpoint" and will take longer to accomplish.

  • Bush will work with Sen. John Breaux, D-La., to overhaul the Medicare system and provide prescription drug coverage for seniors. Breaux and Bush discussed the issue Friday in Texas.

  • Bush will sign a ban on the late-term abortion procedure critics call partial-birth abortion. Such a prohibition, which President Clinton has vetoed, will pass the new Congress easily, said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

    Bush intends to pursue his "giant package" of tax cuts, but he will listen to Republican congressional leaders who think he said should break up the $1.3 trillion proposal into smaller parts that will be easier to pass, Cheney said on CBS’ "Face the Nation."

    Bush plans to meet with congressional leaders in Washington this week to try to start building support for his proposals.

    "I’ll tell them what I believe and I’ll listen to what they believe. And I’ll talk about what I intend to do, and they’ll talk about what they intend to do," Bush said Sunday at a news conference in Austin, Texas.

    "It’s the beginning of a dialogue that is crucial in order to get some positive things done, not only on tax relief, but on education reform and Social Security reform and Medicare reform, the need to strengthen the military."

    Many GOP leaders say it would be a mistake for Bush to immediately attempt to ram through his entire 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut given the 50-50 party split in the incoming Senate and the difficulty under any circumstances of maneuvering tax bills through Congress.

    Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, said the president-elect’s ultimate goal of across-the-board tax relief remains unchanged but conceded "we may have to do it in separate steps."

    House Republicans took a similar piecemeal approach to tax cuts this year, winning passage with Democratic backing of bills to scrap estate or "death" taxes and ease the marriage penalty, only to see them vetoed by President Clinton.

    "It’s a little early in the process for people to be … making judgments on our plan before they’ve given me a chance to explain it," Bush said.

    Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he could not "think of anything that would divide this nation more quickly right off the bat" than trying to sell Congress on a massive across-the-board tax cut.

    Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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