The morning after the Republican-backed $792 billion tax cut bill passed Congress, President Clinton vowed, "This tax cut will not become law."
Speaking at the White House before leaving on a trip to Arkansas, Mr. Clinton said he was disappointed, though not surprised by the bill's passage.
"It threatens Social Security and Medicare, makes it harder to pay off the debt and imperils the prosperity that has brought real benefits to American families," the president said.
"We can have a tax cut," he said, "but it is wrong to put the cart before the horse."
The Senate narrowly approved the bill Thursday night by a vote of 50-49. The measure cleared the House earlier in the day 221-206.
"Individuals and families are due a refund, and that is exactly what we do with this legislation," said Sen. William Roth, R-Del., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "Government is not automatically entitled to the surplus."
The plan would:
- drop the income tax rate by 1 percentage point
- ease the so-called marriage penalty
- reduce the capital gains tax rate and
- phase out the inheritance tax
The Republicans say that a married couple with children earning $75,000 a year would get a 27% cut in taxes. Democrats counter that 58% of the benefits in this tax bill would go to the top 10% of income earners.
"It's a fair, responsible and balanced tax relief bill," declared House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
"Everybody wants a tax cut but some of us believe that you pay off your debts first," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY. "You can't pay off your debts and keep fighting for Medicare [and cut taxes]."
Now, despite the president's promise to veto the bill, Republicans will take their proposals on the road.
"We're going to go across the country in August and we're going to let the American people know that it's their money not Washington's money," said Bill Archer, R-TX.
But some Democrats charge that emergency spending measures -- such as the air war against Yugoslavia and drought relief -- will dry up at least the next year's surplus. In the short term, say those Democrats, there may not be much money to argue about.