The Bush Administration today signaled an unexpected willingness to look at a deficit-cutting plan by the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee that includes new taxes and a Social Security freeze.
"We think there's some room to talk," White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said of the plan unveiled by Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) over the weekend.
Rostenkowski's deficit-reduction proposal combines a series of tax increases and spending cuts with a one-year hold on benefit increases for the nation's 39 million Social Security recipients.
President Bush has long voiced opposition to any form of tax increase and has strongly criticized previous Democratic proposals to modify the Social Security formula.
Today's statement does not represent a retreat from those positions or a major change in Administration thinking, Fitzwater said. He said the Rostenkowski package has "significant weaknesses."
But at the same time, Fitzwater called Rostenkowski's proposal "thoughtful" and said, "His plan deserves some credit. We don't want to pour cold water on a plan we may want to swim around in for a while."
Fitzwater said the Rostenkowski package "comes up with significant savings that should be discussed."