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Congressional GOP holds its own views on tax cuts

By Alan Fram, Associated Press, 2/29/2000

ASHINGTON - Bracing for a November defense of their House and Senate majorities, congressional Republicans will push for tax cuts this year that will probably be very different from the proposals of the GOP presidential contenders.

Though they have made no final decisions, Republican lawmakers indicated their tax cuts would fall well below the $1.3 trillion in reductions Texas Governor George W. Bush has proposed over 10 years. They also are unlikely to propose trimming income tax rates, as Bush would do.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are likely to exceed the 10-year tax cuts of about $500 billion that Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona, wants. Eager to avoid any tax increases, they will probably ignore McCain's plan to raise revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes.

Some specific elements of the congressional plan will resemble those of the presidential hopefuls, including proposals to reduce the marriage penalty, the extra taxes many people owe because they are married. And once Republicans have chosen their presidential nominee, many will no doubt embrace his tax plan and lawmakers could make their own proposals closer to his.

Still, the emerging contrast has concerned some Republicans, including House Budget Committee chairman John Kasich, Republican of Ohio. Kasich, a Bush supporter, has argued in internal GOP meetings that the budget Congress writes this year should leave room for a Bush-sized tax cut.

''If you spend the money and have a smaller tax cut, you kill Bush's ability to have a tax-cutting agenda'' if he is elected president, Kasich said in a recent interview.

So far, he has been outnumbered by other Republican leaders. They argue that this year's budget fight with President Clinton should focus on the the areas where Republicans want to cut taxes, education and health care, and not on the magnitude of the overall reduction.

As a result, Republicans have broken their tax cuts this year into separate bills, rather than combined them into a single package. So far, the House has approved a $182 billion, 10-year reduction of the marriage penalty, while the Senate is debating an $8 billion plan to expand tax-free savings accounts for education.