Republicans are squabbling among themselves over a proposal to prod stalled budget talks by saving the capital gains tax cut and other controversial items for a separate package.
The compromise, offered by Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, came as deficit-reduction negotiators from the Bush administration and Congress reported no major progress Thursday after yet another day of talks.The new fiscal year begins in 10 days. Without a budget deal or some other step by then, the Gramm-Rudman law will slash about $100 billion in spending from the federal budget, a cut that would stagger many government programs.
Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said Dole's idea angered aides to Bush, who has been trying for years to lower the capital gains tax rate. White House chief of staff John Sununu was so upset by the proposal that he "blasted out of the room in a heat" and refused to attend a meeting Thursday among GOP budget bargainers in the Capitol, one official said.
"Tensions are high among Republicans," the official said.
White House spokesman Stephen Hart said Bush has not altered his ideas on what he wants to see in a deficit-reduction package.
"There's been no change in the White House position on . . . taxation or growth incentives," Hart said.
The proposal also drew criticism from Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., the No. 2 House GOP leader.
"House Republicans feel strongly about having one package and one vote," he said.
Under Dole's idea, only tax increases and spending cuts would remain in the $500 billion, five-year deficit-reduction plan under negotiation.
Stripped from the mix and wrapped into a separate measure would be a number of costly proposals dear to each side. These would include a lowering of capital gains tax rates from the current 33 percent to 15 percent; a $13 billion improvement in child care programs, offered by Democrats; and a collection of tax breaks favored by both parties.