Gore chides Bush over GOP plan to cut taxes

By Thomas Ferraro, Reuters, 09/23/99

ASHINGTON - Vice President Al Gore accused Republican White House rival George W. Bush yesterday of staking out a dangerous position on tax cuts and health care.

Gore charged that the $792 billion Republican tax-reduction proposal backed by the Texas governor would undermine Social Security and Medicare.

''The tax plan would spend the entire [federal] surplus without leaving a penny for Medicare, and would threaten Social Security,'' said Gore, the Democratic presidential front-runner.

''I have a far different view,'' Gore said in an address to the American Medical Association. ''We need to strengthen Medicare, and expand it. ... We don't need to drain away the surplus and walk away from our vital health needs.''

Scott McClelland, a Bush campaign spokesman, rejected Gore's charges, saying, ''There is a $1 trillion non-Social Security surplus projected over the next 10 years, which leaves plenty of room for tax cuts.''

''You can fund priorities and return money to taxpayers,'' McClelland said.

Congressional Republicans have argued that their proposed tax cuts, phased in over 10 years, would provide sufficient funds for Social Security, Medicare, and other programs.

President Clinton disagrees, saying they would threaten a number of programs, and has vowed to veto the tax-cut measure.

Gore appeared before the AMA to rally support for a bipartisan patients rights bill in Congress, which is backed by the White House and the doctors' group.

Republicans have offered their own alternative measure, which critics have denounced as inadequate.

Both bills would provide new ways for patients to appeal decisions by health maintenance organizations.

Health care is certain to be a major issue in the 2000 White House race since polls have consistently shown it to be a top concern among voters.

Gore recently announced a plan to help provide health insurance to many of the estimated 45 million uninsured Americans.

Former senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Gore's only challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, is to unveil his own health care proposal this month.

Bush has not yet offered a health care proposal.

But Gore, without mentioning the Texas governor by name, noted, ''Just this week one Republican called for `profound' changes in Medicare and Social Security coupled with his endorsement - of the Republican congressional tax plan.''