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Despite Impeachment, GOP Promises Busy Agenda Capped by Tax Cuts

Posted January 19, 1999

— Even before President Clinton's State of the Union address, Republicans outlined their own agenda - led by a 10 percent income tax cut - partly to demonstrate they will tackle issues other than impeachment.

``No matter what the outcome of the president's situation, life in America will go on,'' Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., said in the GOP's nationally broadcast response to Clinton's speech Tuesday night. ``Our lives will continue to be filled with practical matters, not constitutional ones.''

But some Republicans said the Senate impeachment trial of the president would make gaining bipartisan support for any substantive legislation all the more difficult.

``Progress this year may depend largely on working around the corrosive effects of the White House predicament,'' said Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.

At events throughout the day and in the official TV response, Republicans repeatedly said the 10 percent across-the-board reduction in income tax rates was their top priority for the next two years.

Following close behind were elimination of the ``marriage penalty'' - millions of two-earner couples pay more tax than if they had remained single - and scrapping estate taxes.

``The time has come for major tax change,'' said the Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Sen. William Roth, R-Del. ``We need a broad tax cut.''

Appearing today before the House Ways and Means Committee, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the best use of projected budget surpluses would be to pay down public debt. But short of that, reducing taxes would be far more attractive than more government spending, he said.

``I would clearly prefer that if you can't run the surpluses, you have to get rid of the surpluses, I would far prefer reducing taxes than increasing spending. I don't think it's a close call,'' Greenspan said.

Republicans said they could accomplish these cuts while still safeguarding Social Security for the future. They were heartened that the president embraced some form of new GOP-proposed individual retirement account, but Republicans want them kept in private hands and not overseen by the government as Clinton wants.

``The American people would clearly prefer to have control of their own private investment accounts,'' said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. ``They don't have confidence in the government.''

Beyond taxes and Social Security, the Republican legislative priorities include:

  • Shifting more money and authority for schools from the federal government to local educators and permitting families more choice in where their children attend school.
  • Boosting military pay by 4.8 percent and continuing work on a national missile defense system.
  • Stepping up anti-drug efforts through tougher laws on money-laundering and making it easier to extradite fugitives in drug cases.

    Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., who gave part of the GOP response, briefly mentioned a cornerstone issue for social conservatives: an end to so-called partial-birth abortions, a measure previously passed by Congress but vetoed by the president.

    ``We must uphold the sanctity of life,'' Largent said.

    Republicans were eager to prove they have a popular agenda even before the impeachment trial after a lack of issues was blamed by some to their r setbacks in the 1998 elections.

    ``We have an aggressive agenda, one we're going to work very hard to pass,'' said Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles, R-Okla.

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