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Bush team echoes president's tax remarks

Daschle: It's 'hot rhetoric' to imply Democrats want tax hike

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A day after President Bush threw down the gauntlet in defense of his tax cut program, his economic team fanned out on the Sunday talk shows to make it clear that the White House won't agree to delay or defer the $1.35 trillion in tax cuts approved last year.

With federal surpluses sliding into deficits, some Democrats have suggested that the tax cuts -- many of which have not yet gone into effect -- be repealed or delayed. In speeches on the West Coast Saturday, Bush said that would be tantamount to increasing taxes, and top administration economic officials picked up that same line Sunday.

"We don't believe raising people's taxes during an economic slowdown is an intelligent thing to do," said Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill on NBC's "Meet The Press". "And I don't think most of the American people are in favor of raising taxes this year in order to have the nicety of an accounting surplus. That's not where the American people are. It's not good economics."

"President Bush will continue to fight for the American taxpayer. He will continue to ensure that their taxes are lower rather than higher," said Commerce Secretary Don Evans on CNN's "Late Edition". "Taxes aren't going to increase under this administration."

But one leading Senate Democrat, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, said Sunday that he believes it is short-sighted for the administration to refuse to revisit the tax cut package, saying "we've got to put everything on the table."

"I think it's wrong for anyone -- the president or any one of us -- to say anything is off the table as we try to get our economy going again," Lieberman said on "Meet The Press". "I think we're going to have a terrible year ahead in Congress if any of the leading parties say, 'No, under no circumstances will I do that.'"

On Saturday, Bush, referring to any attempts to revisit the tax cut package, bluntly said, "Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes." The president has proposed an economic stimulus package that includes additional tax cuts, which has stalled in Congress.

Bush's statement came a day after Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, gave a speech sharply critical of the tax cuts, saying they had caused the federal fiscal situation to deteriorate and may have made the current recession worse.

However, Daschle did not call for repeal of the tax package, and he termed suggestions that Democrats want to increase taxes as "hot rhetoric."

Still, While House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey insisted Sunday that Daschle's comments that the tax cuts were a mistake were, in essence, a call for a tax increase.

"If he is true to that line of reasoning, then I would think that he'd be for repealing it," Lindsey said on CBS's "Face The Nation".

Lindsey also said the alternative economic stimulus plan unveiled by Daschle in his speech is further evidence that the Senate leader wants to raise taxes.

"He said that he was for all of these extra spending programs, and he also alleged that he was for fiscal responsibility," Lindsey said. "The only way it adds up is to have a tax increase. So I think a very fair reading of what Mr. Daschle called for was increasing taxes. And it's the wrong thing to do for this economy."




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