GOP pushes tax cuts before session closes

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Frustrated by presidential vetoes in their bid for tax cuts, Republican congressional leaders are putting together a 10-year, $260 billion proposal that includes expanded individual retirement accounts and tax incentives to revive poor communities.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said Thursday the tax cuts would be one of the last major pieces of legislation to move before Congress adjourns, possibly next week.

"By the time we leave this place, we will have cut taxes for the American people," said Hastert, R-Ill.

In addition, Lott told reporters that the proposed $1 hourly increase in the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage over two years sought by President Clinton and congressional Democrats would advance only if linked to tax breaks intended to offset the higher labor costs imposed on small businesses.

"We won’t have minimum wage unless small business tax relief is attached to it," said Lott, R-Miss.

During this two-year session of Congress, President Clinton has vetoed more than $1 trillion in GOP tax cuts, including a bill repealing estate taxes and a measure reducing the "marriage penalty" on two-income couples. But prospects for this final bill, which Lott estimated at $260 billion over 10 years, are much brighter.

"We’re going to have a tax package the president will sign," Lott said. "We’re trying to hold it to the things that have broad bipartisan support."

The Clinton administration has expressed reservations to some of the measures, but none has drawn an outright veto threat. Hastert said he had "some early discussions" with Clinton by telephone on Wednesday to begin working out a final deal.

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