Steaming toward a confrontation over taxes, the Senate’s leading Republican on Sunday accused President Clinton of acting “like a spoiled brat” in criticizing the GOP blueprint for the first major tax cut since 1981.
“I think they are getting into a position to veto the tax-cut provision,” Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said on ABC-TV’s “This Week.” Clinton, Lott added, “acts like a spoiled brat. He thinks he’s got to have his way or no way.”
Clinton brushed off Lott’s jibe, telling reporters: “I wish him a happy Father’s Day.”
But the ranking Democrat on the tax-writing panel in the House predicted Sunday that if Republicans do not alter their tax plan, Clinton would probably veto it.
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee passed an $85-billion tax cut late last week, but did not attract a single Democratic vote for the plan.
“That bill will not be signed into law,” Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And if the Senate is following in track with this bill, that bill will not be signed into law either.”
Clinton and the congressional GOP leaders last month reached broad agreement on a tax cut as part of their five-year plan for balancing the federal budget. But the administration has accused the House Republicans of violating the agreement in producing a plan Clinton says is tilted too heavily toward the affluent, slights his education tax credits and denies benefits from a new $500-per-child tax break to the working poor.
The Senate Finance Committee is expected to begin drafting its version of the tax proposal this week.
On Sunday, a chorus of leading House Republicans denied Clinton’s charges and insisted that the Ways and Means Committee proposal did not violate the budget deal. “We’re trying to accommodate the president in every way that we can, and we believe that we have given roughly the terms of the agreement,” Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-Texas) said on the Fox program.
Appearing on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation,” House Budget Committee Chairman John R. Kasich (R-Ohio) struck a more conciliatory note, saying that compared with congressional Democrats, Clinton had been “somewhat muted” in his criticism of the tax plan. Kasich added that if Clinton “has some legitimate complaints about the education provisions” in the tax bill, “we’ve got to respond to them.”
Lott’s unusually harsh, personal rhetoric may reflect the pressure facing the GOP leadership in both chambers from party activists fearful that the party has allowed Clinton to regain the initiative this year.
Many conservatives have expressed loud disappointment with the budget deal and fury that party leaders last week capitulated to Clinton’s demand to drop unrelated measures--one designed to prevent government shutdowns during budget deadlocks--attached to a bill providing disaster relief for flood-ravaged states, including California.
Though the grumbling is less audible in the Senate than the House--where some conservatives are talking about forcing “a vote of confidence” in the leadership--Lott has lately been accused of vacillation in conservative publications.
Those criticisms seemed to be ringing in his ears Sunday when he insisted that the congressional GOP would not bend to Clinton’s complaints about the emerging tax plan. “We’ve got to do a better job of making sure he understands, and insisting on this being a coequal branch of government,” Lott said.