President Bush may be willing to compromise on his call for a capital gains tax cut, the main sticking point in talks to slash the federal deficit, Republican members of Congress who met with the president said Wednesday.
Instead of reducing the rate on capital gains taxes, Bush might accept other incentives to economic growth, the lawmakers said."He might be willing to look at alternatives in the growth area," said Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., as he and other GOP lawmakers left the White House.
But Bush and GOP lawmakers warned that without Democratic concessions at ongoing budget talks, no deal would be reached in time to avoid $85 billion in federal spending cuts that the Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction law will impose on Monday.
Without an agreement by Monday, the start of the new budget year, the government faces the possibility of mass disruptions of services and furloughs of many of the two million federal civilian employees.
"It can be avoided if they do what they should," Bush told reporters aboard Air Force One before flying to the Midwest for a campaign trip. "It's the Congress. I would now say the Democrats in Congress have not come forward with a package."
"There are a couple of points now where the Democrats need to move," said Dole. He said he was referring to economic incentives.
Bush made no mention of his new flexibility on capital gains.
Dole and House Republican Leader Robert Michel already have said they would be willing to put aside Bush's proposal to cut the capital gains tax rate in order to get a budget agreement.
Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., the No. 2 House Republican, said the incentives Bush might be willing to accept include tax breaks for businesses to encourage research and investment, and a proposal to establish so-called enterprise zones. The zones would provide tax breaks for businesses in poor urban and rural areas.
"While he's going to be very flexible and he's willing to look at a Democratic offer, he wants part of this final agreement to be a growth package," Gingrich said.
"He's willing to negotiate every item that's been advanced," said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., when asked if Bush was now ready to bargain on the question of capital gains.
Both Michel and Dole said they would be willing to put the capital gains cut in order to get an agreement to slash the budget deficit over five years by $500 billion. Asked by reporters about the GOP defections, Bush refused to answer.