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President Signs Tax Cut Bill Passage of 10-Year, $1.35 Trillion Plan A Victory for Bush

By Craig Gordon
NEWSDAY -- WASHINGTON

President Bush signed into law Thursday the biggest tax cut in a generation and promised most American families tax rebate checks that would come in time to cover back-to-school bills this fall.

Bush hailed the signature legislation of his young presidency as “the first major achievement of a new era, an era of steady cooperation” in the nation’s capital.

But Bush’s hope for more accomplishments to come now confronts a new Democratic majority in the Senate eager to press its own agenda. The historic shift in the Senate this week derailed Republican hopes of swift passage of the rest of Bush’s agenda, including another major tax cut focused on businesses and corporate interests. Bush had asked that powerful lobby to wait in line until he could win his $1.35 trillion, decade-long tax cut.

Bush is likely to get at least one more celebratory signing ceremony, for an education bill that has broad bipartisan support but is hung up on Democratic calls for greater funding. After that, Democrats have said, they will pivot from Bush’s legislative wish list to their own, including a patients’ bill of rights, a minimum wage hike and prescription drug benefits as part of Medicare -- issues that were never high on Bush’s agenda.

Still, Bush can take credit for pushing through a sweeping tax cut that, as he delights in telling people, many analysts did not think he could accomplish.

Bush proposed a $1.6 trillion plan to Congress earlier this year, and the final bill’s smaller tally, a compromise to win over some Democrats, still covers the key parts of his original plan. It calls for a reduction in marginal rates, repeal of the estate tax, a doubling of the $500 child credit and relief for the so-called marriage penalty affecting about 20 million families.

The plan’s most visible feature is the tax rebate checks -- up to $600 for married couples, $300 for single taxpayers -- slated to be mailed to 95 million American taxpayers starting the week of July 23.

Grumbling arose in some unlikely quarters Thursday, as conservatives said many of the cuts they most favor, such as changing the marriage penalty and eliminating the estate tax, take so long to kick in that they fear they might never happen.