(CNS) - House Republicans and six dissenting Democrats voted Thursday to pass the largest tax cut since President Reagan's in 1981.
The GOP needed near-total cooperation from its 222 members for passage, and they got it. The historic $792 billion tax cut, which would be phased in over 10 years, was approved by a 223-208 margin.
"This is a piece of legislation that the American people deserve," Bill Shapard, spokesman for Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK), told CNSnews.com. "It's their money and we're going to give it back."
President Clinton has promised to veto the tax relief bill, calling it "the kind of risk-taking that got us into deficits before." But Clinton has said he would sign a lesser tax cut measure of roughly $250 billion.
Clinton is not expected to break his promise of vetoing the legislation, and Republicans are planning their response. "We're going to hold the president accountable for turning this legislation down," said Shapard. "We should make him accountable to the American people."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) spent Wednesday before the vote trying to unify his majority party in daylong negotiations and refute the president's threats in order to assure passage of the bill, entitled the Financial Freedom Act.
In a statement to CNSNews.com, Hastert responded to Clinton's criticism of the tax cuts, saying, "The president is wrong. It is not risky to give the American people their money back."
The GOP plan would be phased in gradually over the next decade and includes a 10 percent across-the-board cut for all Americans; a gradual withdrawal of alternative minimum taxes and estate taxes; cuts in capital gains taxes from 20 percent to 15 percent; and relief from the marriage penalty, which places higher taxes on some two-income couples.
Republican leaders compromised with some in their ranks who felt that the tax cut was too large. As a result, members agreed to link the tax cuts to progress in reducing the national debt.
"It takes a lot of work in our government to bring everyone together to some sort of compromise," Shapard said. "But in the end, it happened and the vote is living proof of that.'
Prior to voting on the GOP plan, the House today defeated a measure offered by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY). Rangel's bill would have provided less tax relief and was voted down 258-173.
Rangel predicted the tax cut vote would return to haunt Republicans at the ballot box next year. "It's going to be the nails in the coffin that denies you the majority in the year 2000," Rangel said, speaking of the GOP's chances of retaining power in the House in the 107th Congress.
In spite of the predictions of political defeat the promise of a presidential veto, Republicans were well satisfied with the results. "We're ecstatic," Shapard said. "There were six Democrats who saw the light, and saw what we were trying to do."