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Tax Cuts Top the List of GOP Policy Differences With President Clinton

By Art Pine
Los Angeles Times

Congressional Republicans, responding to President Clinton's State of the Union address Tuesday, called for more bipartisan cooperation but served notice they plan to push proposals on key issues that are starkly different from the administration's.

Reps. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash., and Steve Largent, R-Okla., the designated GOP spokesmen, were to deliver televised remarks after Clinton's speech. The text of their comments conspicuously omitted any reference to the presidential impeachment trial. Instead, the pair opted for soft, low-key speeches that stressed "reconciliation." Clearly, the GOP response and comments by Republican leaders earlier in the day sought to depict the party as focused on more than impeachment.

"Our point is that we have a lot of work to do and that we're working," said Deputy Senate Majority Leader Don Nickles, R-Okla., at a morning news conference. "We hope that we'll have the president's cooperation," he added, "but we plan on doing it regardless."

Congressional analysts said the five-part legislative agenda that GOP leaders outlined before Clinton's address is sufficiently different from what the president proposed that a serious partisan wrangle seems all but inevitable particularly over the question of a tax cut.

The two sides differ sharply over several issues particularly how to use the $4 trillion surplus that the federal government is expected to run over the next 15 years. Clinton wants the money used almost entirely to bolster the Social Security fund, while the Republicans contend that can be accomplished even as large tax cuts are enacted.

They also are split over what kind of tax cuts to enact. While Clinton proposed a few modest "targeted" tax breaks aimed at specific groups such as mothers who stay at home or people who care for disabled parents or children Republicans touted a plan for more sizable cuts affecting a broader swath of the public.

The GOP proposal would reduce tax rates across the board by 10 percent well short of what President Reagan pushed through in 1981, but still sizable by any measure. The biggest tax benefits would go to taxpayers in the higher-income brackets.

Republicans also revived their longstanding call for eliminating the so-called "marriage penalty" the formula that forces married couples to pay more taxes by filing jointly than they would have had to pay if they had remained single a hot-button GOP issue for the past several years.

The two sides also are divided over how to invest Social Security funds in the stock market, in hopes of providing a better return. Clinton wants the government to invest the money in the market, while Republicans want taxpayers to be able to set up their own accounts.