Senate GOP Leader: There's Enough Democrat Votes To Pass Bush Tax Plan

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

( - Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said in a broadcast interview Thursday, he has enough Senate Democrat votes to pass President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut plan. The President is expected to explain why that tax cut plan is needed to stimulate the sluggish American economy in his first address to a joint session of Congress tonight.

Lott also said he is "already looking ahead to a second tax cut bill that will provide relief for investors and businesses." He maintains that Sens. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) "will probably vote" for the tax cut, in addition to Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.), who is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Lott said the GOP strategy for passing Bush's plan will be to "target" Democrats from the southern states that Bush won in last year's election. "How is Max Cleland going to vote? He is up [for re-election] next year. I would think that he would be under some pressure."

Cleland's spokesperson Eileen Force said Cleland is "waiting to see what all the plans are" before he decides, but added that he favors "major tax relief."

Lott maintained that Landrieu is in a similar position: "Tell me the people of Louisiana that voted for George W. Bush don't want a tax cut...I know Louisianans. They do. And if she doesn't vote for it, she is going to pay a price for it."

Landrieu spokesperson Rich Masters said, "Clearly she is a Democrat who believes we can afford some tax cuts...At the same time, she has some concerns about military spending."

Lott added that there are "at least two more Democrats who have indicated privately they are going to support it. They haven't gone public yet."

However, Lott may face challenges to the Bush tax proposal from within his own party.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said during a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday that while a tax cut is needed, it must fit into a larger budget plan that "controls spending and ensures debt reduction." But, Voinovich, who has previously wavered on the Bush proposal, believes it would be "prudent" to cut marginal income tax rates retroactively, as the President has proposed in his plan.

Three Democratic senators Tuesday attacked Bush's plan. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said on Capitol Hill, "The president's tax cut is just too big."

Democratic Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) also criticized the Bush plan in floor speeches Tuesday.

Lieberman criticized the plan as having no business and growth incentives, and then proposed three potential tax cuts instead. One would be a refundable tax credit that would bring down payroll taxes, which he called a "tax on work." Another proposal would be a small business tax credit for investments in technology, and a third would eliminate capital gains taxes for investments in "entrepreneurial firms."

Lieberman said later he would unveil the plan in the next week or two and hopes for both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.

Wellstone warned his colleagues "I hope that my party does not join in this tax-cutting frenzy. Frankly, I would say to Democrats: this is our moment of truth."

He called for Democrats to make investments in education and healthcare a priority, vowing to offer "a lot of amendments" on those issues.

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