Democrats agree that the $80 billion Republican tax-cut proposal is a good one with broad political appeal. They just don't support GOP plans to spend part of the budget surplus for it.
"We support the bill, but it's not properly funded," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.Rangel and other Democrats said Tuesday they will search for other ways to pay for the tax cuts so the projected $1.6 trillion surplus over the next decade is set aside to preserve Social Security.
"The Social Security trust fund is a sacred issue we have to take care of first," Rangel said.
The five-year tax-cut plan outlined by the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, would be financed almost entirely by part of the surplus. Republicans contend the surplus is large enough to both guarantee Social Security and enact a modest tax cut.
"As long as we make it very clear that we are committed to saving Social Security, the American people think there should be some of the surplus given back to them," Archer told reporters. "We need to be sure we infuse more money back into the pockets of tax-payers."
Archer said Wednesday the measure would take about 10 percent of the projected surplus - or $176.2 billion over 10 years - leaving 90 percent for Social Security. The Ways and Means Committee planned to consider a second bill stating specifically that the larger amount couldn't be touched until Social Security's solvency is certain.
The tax bill originally outlined by Archer would benefit two-earner couples who now pay a "marriage penalty," help farmers deduct losses and smooth income fluctuations, let the self-employed immediately deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premiums and exempt small savings accounts from taxes on interest.
To that list, Archer on Tuesday added provisions for education and working senior citizens.