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Gingrich Tries To Erase Ethics Probe Blemishes

Thu., April 10, 1997

In a bold challenge to conservatives who complained he was going soft on tax cuts, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said Wednesday he wants to eliminate capital gains and estate taxes.

“I favor a zero tax on savings and job creation,” Gingrich said at a Republican news conference on limiting tax increases. “We’re for zero tax on death benefits.”

Gingrich’s pronouncement was the latest in a blizzard of speeches, news conferences and other initiatives he has mounted in an aggressive effort to reassert his leadership after months of trying to repair the damage inflicted by a prolonged ethics investigation.

Gingrich has faced heavy criticism from Republicans who think he has strayed too far from the conservative party line, especially when he said he might favor postponing action on tax cuts until after Congress passes a balanced budget. Now, he is trying to build on the largely favorable reviews he got for his tough talk to Chinese officials during his recent visit to Asia.

Some of his erstwhile critics are encouraged. “He is aggressively reasserting himself,” said Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla. “He was responding to the pressure from anti-tax Republicans.”

Gingrich launched his comeback drive this week with a schedule packed with speeches - including one Monday night before GOPAC, the political action committee he once headed, where he delivered his most pointed criticism to date of the questionable Democratic fund-raising practices. He gave another version of that spirited talk in a closed-door meeting with House Republicans Wednesday.

He made his tax comments at a news conference promoting a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds majority vote in Congress to raise taxes - a measure GOP leaders plan to bring to the House floor on tax day, April 15.

But Democrats were quick to criticize Gingrich’s call for abolishing estate and capital gains taxes. White ouse spokesman Mike McCurry called it a “charm offensive under way with the far right,” and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., said Gingrich’s “tax giveaway” would cost $40 billion, “an expensive admission ticket to buy his way back into the hearts of the conservative wing of his party.”


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