Lively Debate Expected as House Takes Up Tax-Cut Bill

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:27 PM EDT

( - Lively debate is expected Thursday, as a bill incorporating President Bush's across-the-board tax cut makes its way to the House floor.

The bill, which would lower income tax rates over five years, is expected to clear its first congressional hurdle, passing with a handful of Democratic votes. But many other Democrats are furious that Republican leaders are moving so quickly.

Some "Blue Dog" Democrats were threatening to stall the legislation but they decided to debate it instead. The Blue Dogs describe themselves as solution-oriented conservative Democrats.

One of those Blue Dog Democrats, Rep. Jim Turner of Texas, said the president's proposed tax cut raises serious questions. "Frankly, it appears that he's trying to fit his tax cut into a realistic budget. Trying to fit his tax cut into a realistic budget is like to fit a size 11 foot into a size 6 shoe. The American people understand that there is no surplus today and that forecasting the surplus for the next 10 years is lot like making a 10 year weather forecast."

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) predicted Wednesday that today's debate will be a "good battle and discussion on things that conservatives fought for many years -- easing the regulatory burdens and lowering taxes."

"If some of my friends on the other side seem to be frustrated with this, it should come as no surprise. Easing regulatory burdens, lowering taxes creates more freedom for the American people -- I'll stand on the side of freedom and individual responsibility and individual initiative every day of the week," said Shimkus.

Rep. Chris John (D-La.), another "Blue Dog" Democrat, said Congress can afford to give Americans a tax cut. But he expressed reservations over the amount of the tax cut. "How do we know how much money to allot in different places? How do we know that $1.6 [trillion] is not too much of a tax cut? How do we know if $1.6 [trillion] is not too little of a tax cut? How don't we know if $1.6 [trillion]is just right? I urge the other side to show us the budget," John said.

President Bush will present his budget to Congress in April.

"Legislators, Not Thieves"

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) noted that over the next five years, the federal government stands to collect some $5.5 trillion more than it needs to meet its budget. "An unbelievable amount of money," he called it.

"It's more than we need to pay off our public debt, shore up Social Security and fix Medicare. It's almost unbelievable that some in this body think we should keep that money in the treasury until we can find something else to spend it on."

"This money is not the government's money. We're not supposed to take more than we need. We're supposed to be legislators, not thieves. We need to give this money back to the taxpayers who paid it. We need to pass the President's tax plan and we should do it quickly," Pitts said.

On Tuesday, House Republican Leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.) said the slowing economy and the size of projected budget surpluses means lawmakers should consider approving a tax cut even larger than what the president wants.

"I believe it is time for us to seriously look at a tax reduction larger than the $1.6 trillion that has been proposed. We really do need to look at what we can do to move the economy along at a better pace. There is room within the $5.6 trillion (budget) surplus to look beyond the $1.6 trillion tax cut," Armey said on Capitol Hill.

The House is taking a piecemeal approach to the Bush plan while the Senate is expected to take up the whole package later in the year.

Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott has said he hopes the tax bill can be passed and on the president's desk by July.