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Bush marks tax day by challenging the Senate

President Bush
Bush: "Our country is at peace, but our government is charging wartime prices."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The deadline for filing income tax returns Monday gave President Bush another opportunity to promote his $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax cut, and allowed him to take aim at the Senate, where the plan faces resistance.

Bush crossed the city at mid-afternoon Monday to deliver a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which chose to mark "tax day" by beaming the brief presidential address to chambers of commerce across the country.

The organization of business leaders is a staunch supporter of the president's tax-relief regime, which it believes will help keep small businesses flush through uncertain economic times, preserving thousands of jobs and circulating millions in extra cash.

"This is tax day," Bush said, opening his speech. "That means that last weekend, all across America, husbands and wives sat down at the kitchen table, trying to finish their 1040s."

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Every American family feels some sort of pressure at tax time, Bush intimated, and lawmakers -- he hinted further -- need to glean more information from that yearly ritual.

The federal government, Bush said, would take in more in tax receipts in 2001 as a percentage of gross domestic product than it has since 1944 -- one year removed from the end of World War II.

"Our country is at peace, but our government is charging wartime prices," Bush said. "Enough is enough. The American people deserve tax relief."

The president then released a volley at the Senate. Until now, Bush has treated with kid gloves -- at least publicly -- the way the Senate earlier this month shaved his tax cut to just under $1.3 trillion and added billions in new spending in its version of the congressional budget resolution.

The House, by contrast, approved Bush's full $1.6 trillion package in March when it passed its own budget resolution, which in most respects closely mirrors the president's wider priorities.

Both versions of the budget resolution will have to be reconciled in a House-Senate conference next week. Members of both houses remained in their districts on this tax deadline, still enjoying their two-week spring recess.

"During the budget debates, some members of Congress complained that [they] did not have enough money to spend," Bush said Monday. "But in 2001, the income tax will yield about $2 billion in revenues for all 535 members of Congress.

"I think they should be able to get by on that. Even the senators," Bush quipped.

The Senate's initial version of the budget resolution was derailed by a coalition of Democrats and a few moderate Republicans, many of whom complained they could not support the president's full tax cut if ways could not be found to boost spending for education, health and veterans' programs.

"The Senate approved most of my tax plan, but wants the government to spend far more," Bush said, leveling his pointed criticism to date of the chamber's handling of the budget.

"Some members are proving the point that I have been making across the country," he said. "If you send it, they will spend it."

Should the Senate's wish list become reality, Bush claimed, the growth rate of the federal government could double in only nine years.

"In only nine years time, the cost of government operations could be twice what it is today," Bush said.

"Excess spending threatens economic vitality. What we want is a stronger economy, not a larger federal government."

The president has his work cut out for him as he awaits Congress' return. Even as organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continued wide, grass-roots efforts to bend the ears of lawmakers in the president's direction, Democrats hit the airwaves and dug trenches for battle.

"What George Bush did is he picked his tax cut and then sort of built a budget around it," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

"You wouldn't do that in your family. You would sort of sit down and see what your needs are," Boxer said.

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The White House
 • U.S. President George W. Bush
U.S. Office of Management and Budget
U.S. Congressional Budget Office

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