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Senate Democrats Unveil $60 Billion Tax Rebate Plan

Aired March 27, 2001 - 11:04 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Four minutes after the hour. Let's go to Washington now. That event with the Democrats introducing their tax plan already be -- under way.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: ... precludes us from working together on other bipartisan tax priorities, like the marriage penalty or the inheritance tax. Democrats support those tax cuts and are ready to find common ground on each of them this year. But let's get this done now.

So there you have it, $60 billion to be returned to the American people this year and a cut in the 15 percent bracket to 10 percent for all families. We can act now to take these two widely agreed upon proposals off the table and get them on to the president's desk. So the question is, why don't we?

Is it possible that Republicans have just met the first tax cut they don't like? Or is it that tax relief for everyone is being held hostage by their commitment to a massive tax cut to the very few?

Either way, it's time to stop holding middle-class tax relief hostage and to pass a plan that provides tax relief fairly and quickly and provides a measure of stimulus to our economy in the process. This is that plan.

It's now my pleasure to introduce the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Conrad.

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Thank you, Leader.

I think the fundamental question is: Why has the Bush administration been selling their tax cut plan as a stimulus package when there's no stimulus in their package? Why are they resisting a plan that would provide immediate stimulus to the economy?

It just seems to us that common sense dictates that next week, after we've completed campaign finance reform, that we move immediately to a tax cut that could be effective within weeks. It could put $60 billion in the pockets of American taxpayers and give some lift to this economy.

There is no reason that we then couldn't return after the April work break and have an opportunity to discuss the longer term package and to try to work out the details on that.

Let me just conclude by saying, this makes sense in every way. Act immediately on tax relief for American taxpayers now to give a lift to the economy when it's needed rather than waiting.

Number two, deferring the action on the longer term package until we've received the president's budget and the re- estimate of his tax plan from the Joint Committee on Taxation.

That just makes common sense. It makes no sense to wait, to hold immediate relief hostage to the larger plan, when we haven't even yet received the president's budget.

Senator Lieberman?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks, Tom. It's a pleasure to be with my colleagues, and particularly to thank my leader, Tom Daschle, for putting this package together.

The American economy has some needs in the short term and the long term. And the extraordinary run of economic prosperity that we've had over the last eight years allows us to deal in a measured and constructive way with both of these problems.

But from the administration, thus far, as Kent Conrad just said, though we've had the use of our economic slowdown as an excuse for adopting their over-bloated tax plan, in fact, they don't do anything to help the economy in the short term.

The Bush tax plan doesn't put any money in the economy or the pockets of taxpayers this year, very little next year. In fact, most of doesn't come until 2006.

In the longer term, the president's plan doesn't provide the right answers because it's not asking the right questions.

The president's tax plan is not what we need, a prosperity plan. The Democratic plan, both in the short term and the long term, is a prosperity plan.

The president's tax plan is essentially a campaign proposal that he made 15 months ago when Steve Forbes was campaigning against him on the flat-tax idea and when the economy was in boom.

Today, he's the president and the economy is slowing down, and it's time for him to ask the same questions that Tom Daschle and my Democratic colleagues here are asking: What can we do responsibly to help the economy out of the slowdown it's in now? And I think this proposal is it.

I'm very grateful to Tom and my other colleagues here for working along with me on this idea of a rebate that I've been working on. And I do think it is the right thing to do because it is fair, it's fast and it's fiscally responsible. It's money out of a surplus that we know will be in our accounts on September 30 of this year. In the long term, this Senate Democratic family and team has consistently stood for what we've learned over the last eight years, that economic growth occurs in the private sector. Government doesn't create jobs, but government can create the environment in which jobs can grow. And the whole 1/3 for paying down the debt, 1/3 of the surplus for tax cuts, 1/3 for investments in our future -- education, research and development, the kinds of seeds of a new economy, are exactly what our economy needs.

So I think what you've got here from Tom Daschle and Ken Conrad and the rest of us is a short-term and long-term prosperity plan for America, a plan, in detail, that will continue our economic prosperity and, indeed, our social progress.

And I hope that our colleagues in the Republican Party and, more generally, in the Congress, do exactly what Tom and Kent have asked. Let's act quickly to give the right medicine to what is temporarily ailing our economy, and then let's build on the long-term strength of the American economy to continue the good times that we've had for the last eight years.

HARRIS: Well, we've been listening to the Democratic leadership introducing what they are calling now a short- and long-term prosperity program. This idea of a $60-billion tax rebate that would go into effect immediately, something that they say would not be argued against.

Also, they've introduced there something they talked about maybe a week or so ago, the idea of cutting the current 15-percent tax bracket down to 10 percent and doing so again immediately and, therefore, infusing immediately some cash back into what they are saying is a slowing economy.

These are two items that President Bush has said that he would probably be for, but -- and there's no argument against it. So, therefore, the Democrats are saying, "Let's do it right now." But, of course, that is just the beginning of this debate.



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