Clinton, Republicans Duel Over Tax Cuts

By Bruce Sullivan | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - President Clinton and congressional Republicans traded barbs over the airwaves this weekend on the issue of tax reduction, as Clinton reiterated his threat to veto the elimination of the marriage penalty tax passed by Congress last week. The president insisted the elimination of the marriage penalty threatens the projected budget surplus.

"Now we have the chance to pass responsible tax cuts as we continue to pursue solid economic policy," said Clinton in his weekly radio address taped in Okinawa, Japan where he was attending a meeting of the Group of Eight industrial nations.

"But instead of following this sensible path that got us here, congressional Republicans are treating this surplus as if they won it in the lottery," said Clinton.

However, Sen. Rod Grams, (R-MN), countered in the weekly GOP radio response that the projected budget surplus represents a tax overpayment by millions of workers, who deserve some of it back.

"Every single dollar of that surplus was created by the American taxpayers and a strong economy. It's the workers' property. It doesn't belong to the White House or Congress," said Grams. The latest Congressional Budget Office estimates put the surplus as high as $2.2 trillion over the next decade.

Grams also took issue with Clinton's depiction of the elimination of the marriage tax penalty as disproportionately benefiting the wealthy.

"He's threatened to veto these bills, calling them 'tax cuts for the rich,'" said Grams. "That's just plain rhetoric, not reality. A young family struggling to meet the mortgage and pay for their kids' braces is by no means 'rich.' They're going to notice that extra money once the marriage penalty is gone and it's going to make a big difference in their lives."

Last year, Clinton vetoed a $792 billion Republican tax cut package, but this year GOP congressional leaders are hoping to pass pieces of that package as individual bills. As an example, the marriage tax cut raises the standard deduction for married couples to that of singles, widens the lowest 15 percent tax bracket for some couples, and raises the earned income tax credit for low-income married couples.