A growing number of Senate Republicans are developing serious doubts about the size of the GOP-proposed $245 billion tax cut, and it may well have to be scaled back, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole acknowledged Sunday.
“There’s been some indication, even from conservative Republicans … that maybe we shouldn’t try to go all the way to $245 billion,” the Kansas Republican said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.”
He added: “I’m hearing from a lot of sources on the Republican side - and not those who’ve said from the start that they thought … it was too much - but others who I’m frankly a little surprised by in the past couple of days.”
Dole’s comments suggest a major new development in the ongoing battle in Washington over how to balance the federal budget while restructuring Medicare and Medicaid.
Dole’s candid assessment of the diminishing enthusiasm for the current tax-cut proposal among GOP senators comes after weeks of unrelenting Democratic criticism that such a cut is misguided in light of the GOP’s plan to cut $452 billion in spending for Medicare and Medicaid over seven years.
A likely compromise would be a smaller tax cut in exchange for less-severe spending reductions in Medicare and Medicaid, the huge health care programs for the nation’s elderly and the indigent.
But if Senate Republicans were to abandon the $245 billion tax cut, they will be putting themselves on a possible collision course with their counterparts in the House, which has already passed the tax cut. The Senate Finance Committee has yet to take up the tax-cut issue.
As it is, there is little love lost among many House Republicans for their colleagues in the Senate, which has been something of a burial ground for much of the House’s “Contract With America.”
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., was asked Sunday about the waning Senate enthusiasm for a big tax cut on ABC-TV’s “This Week with David Brinkley.”
Noting that Senate Republicans earlier this year signed off on a budget resolution that specified a $245 billion tax cut, Gingrich said pointedly:
“I think the Senate, frankly, is honor-bound to deliver on that.”
The Senate Finance Committee is ex pected to take up the tax-cut issue soon. Dole said Sunday that he intends to discuss the matter with Sen. William V. Roth Jr., R-Del., who succeeded ousted Sen. Bob Packwood as the panel’s chairman.
Also speaking earlier Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., repeated his long-held position: “As long as tax cuts are on the table, I won’t support a dollar in increases in (Medicare) premiums.”