Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) said Friday that President Bush should “start right now” on a plan to resuscitate the economy and questioned Bush’s endorsement of a tax cut plan pushed by House GOP Whip Newt Gingrich.
“With Congress out of town, it’s all his,” Dole said. “I think this is a real opportunity for President Bush because he is a single voice in Washington. He’s got six weeks to demonstrate leadership.”
In a telephone conference call with reporters, Dole said he thought it would be a mistake for Bush to wait until his State of the Union address in late January to offer his ideas for solving the nation’s economic problems.
Just a day after Bush reiterated that strategy, Dole urged the President to call congressional leaders to the White House soon and said he should “seek a consensus” on how to spur business growth and create jobs.
At the same time, Dole said he was puzzled by Bush’s belated endorsement of Gingrich’s plan, which the Georgia Republican advanced in the waning days of Congress.
Gingrich called for a sharp cut in the capital gains tax rate, from 28% to 20%, and a tax cut for people who make under $50,000 a year and pay interest on savings accounts. After he won Bush’s endorsement, Gingrich pushed for Congress to return after a Thanksgiving recess and take up the proposals.
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) threatened to do just that and said Democrats would be prepared to offer their own tax plans. But Congress voted to adjourn until Jan. 3, subject to recall if necessary, and instead scheduled a series of December hearings on economic policy.
Dole defended Bush against accusations that he has flip-flopped on a host of domestic policy issues in recent months, but he did question one Bush move.
Conceding that economic hard times have caused ruptures within the Republican Party, Dole said: “I think the President probably went too far in enthusiastically supporting it (the Gingrich plan). . . . I think the President is in rough shape right now.”