Senior House Democrats indicated a willingness Friday to negotiate a deficit-reduction plan that includes some increase in the gasoline tax, but they insisted President Bush must accept a higher burden on the rich.
"Obviously, compromises are required," House Speaker Thomas Foley said after a party caucus. "The insistence of the president in having no income tax changes seems to be inexplicable and inflexible."Democrats, he said, will insist House and Senate negotiators modify a Senate proposal that would increase the gasoline tax by 91/2 cents and raise Medicare premiums.
Congressional leaders had hoped to work out differences in time to get an agreement to Bush before midnight Friday, when the temporary funding measure expires. However, they indicated Friday that a final bill is unlikely before next week.
Bush indicated he'll sign stopgap legislation extending authority through Wednesday.
A stopgap bill has passed the House and is awaiting a Senate vote.
At the White House Friday, Bush said the Senate bill "offers some real hope for getting the budget deficit matter under control," but he would not discuss what he thinks the final version should contain.
"I, for the first time, feel optimistic that we can get this job done for the American people," Bush said.