Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the Republican leader, Wednesday abandoned any notion that the Senate’s budget plan could allow for a substantial tax cut right away.
But the budget plan that comes out of a House-Senate conference committee is almost certain to include a tax cut in some form. So the Senate will have another chance to vote on the issue next month.
The final vote on the Senate plan was delayed until today, as Democrats offered dozens of amendments meant mostly for political consumption and demanded votes on all of them.
Most of these amendments were rejected on party-line votes. But the Democrats, joined by 10 Republicans, did succeed in blocking a Republican scheme to abolish taxpayer financing of presidential election campaigns.
Tuesday, the Senate voted, 69-31, to reject a proposal by Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas to include tax cuts of more than $300 billion in its overall plan that is supposed to balance the budget within seven years.
Republicans were split on the issue. Twenty-three of them voted with all the Democrats against the tax cut, including Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, chairman of the Budget Committee, and Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon, chairman of the Finance Committee.
Dole and Gramm are rivals for the Republican presidential nomination next year. Dole voted in favor of the Gramm tax proposal, presumably hoping to cancel any political advantage Gramm might get for his effort. Dole has promised all year that the Senate would vote for a tax cut, but he expended no effort to get the Gramm amendment passed.
Looking for solid political footing, Dole, who normally offers an opinion on every issue in the legislative galaxy, has kept quiet this week about the tax matter.
Tuesday night and again Wednesday, he met with Republican colleagues in search of some kind of compromise.
What they decided on was an amendment, to be voted on today, that would require that any money the balanced budget plan saves the government in lower interest rates on government bonds be used for tax cuts.
During the debate, Dole is expected to enter into an exchange with Packwood in which they pledge that such tax cuts would involve lower taxes for families with children, a tax break for capital gains and several other items on Gramm’s list.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if a balanced budget plan is adopted and adhered to for seven years, the government would save $170 billion because of lower interest rates.
The budget plan now before the Senate would permit this money to be used for tax cuts and would not allow any of it to be spent, but it would not require that taxes be lowered.
In any event, almost none of the money would be available in the first year or two.
The scene in the Senate on Wednesday represented legislative sausage-making at its worst.
By early afternoon, the 50 hours of debate allotted by the budget law had expired. But dozens of amendments had not been voted on. So the Senate took one vote after another without any debate or explanation.