President Clinton ordered Republicans "back to the drawing board" for tax relief Saturday, promising to veto what he said was an irresponsible $80 billion package of tax cuts. He insisted on narrower cuts that would reserve surplus funds for Social Security.
"Fiscal responsibility has created our prosperity, and fiscal irresponsibility would put it at risk," he said in his weekly radio broadcast from the Oval Office.With 12 days to go before fiscal 1998 closes out the books with a federal budget surplus, Clinton chided Congress' Republican majority for being too eager to squander that surplus on politically pop-u-lar tax cuts.
"The black ink in the budget hasn't even had the chance to dry - indeed it hasn't appeared yet - and they already want to drain the surplus to fund a tax plan before we make the most of our opportunity - our historic opportunity - to save Social Security," Clinton said.
Sen. Thad Cochran, meanwhile, used the Republican Party's weekly radio address to highlight a $4 billion GOP measure to aid America's farmers, who are suffering the effects of economic crises abroad and severe weather conditions at home.
"Neither the president nor his secretary of agriculture has proposed any workable program to assist these beleaguered farmers and ranchers," said Cochran, R-Miss.
The tax showdown, though, is getting more attention from the White House.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved the five-year package of tax cuts Thursday. The full House is expected to consider the bill next week. Michigan Rep. David Bonior, the Democrats' chief vote-counter, said he has "more than enough votes" to sustain Clinton's promised veto.
The bill includes tax relief for farmers, married couples, senior citizens who work, small businesses, people with savings accounts and students saving for private colleges, among others. It also extends several expiring tax credits sought by big business.
"I believe strongly that this is the wrong way to give American families the tax relief they deserve," Clinton said. He pushed instead for targeted tax cuts, including relief for families with education and child care expenses, and for businesses that develop new environmental technologies.