Trying to kill a tax-revolt plan popular in Congress, President Clinton said it would be “reckless” to abolish the nation’s tax code and try to build a supposedly simpler, fairer system from scratch.
“We musn’t buy a pig in a poke,” Clinton said, calling the Republican-backed plan an “irresponsible scheme.”
Republicans want to make tax reform a major battleground for this year’s midterm elections, and Clinton acknowledged that their proposal sounds irresistible. But he said the uncertainty surrounding the bill could be disastrous for family budgets, businesses and the economy.
Republicans quickly accused Clinton of defending the status quo. “So are we to conclude that the president believes that the marriage tax penalty is fair and that the payroll tax is fair and that the American people are not over-taxed?” Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said.
The proposal, known as the Tax Code Termination Act, would wipe out the current tax code by Dec. 31, 2001, guaranteeing that a replacement would be passed by Congress by July 1 of that year. Republicans are lining up to put their name on the bill even as they remain divided over replacement plans such as a flat tax or national sales tax.
“Under the guise of reform,” Clinton said, “they have proposed what to me is an irresponsible scheme: to eliminate our tax laws without any system to replace it.”
He said, “I will not permit it if I can stop it. But it shouldn’t pass in the first place.”
The measure has 137 co-sponsors in the House and 25 co-sponsors in the Senate, including every member of the Senate’s GOP leadership. The plan was proposed by the nation’s largest small business lobby, the 600,000-member National Federation of Independent Business.