GOP Seeks To Override Clinton Veto

Wednesday, September 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Believing they have a winning political issue if not the votes, House Republican leaders planned an attempt to override President Clinton's veto of a tax break for millions of married couples.

In the fall election campaigns, Republicans will argue that replacing Clinton in the White House with Republican George W. Bush — and keeping the GOP in control on Capitol Hill — would remove obstacles to ending the ``marriage penalty'' tax paid by 25 million two-income couples.

``Republicans believe that the federal budget surplus must be returned to the men and women who earned it,'' said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas. ``President Clinton ignored a strong, bipartisan consensus when he rejected the effort to achieve this goal through tax relief.''

Forty-eight Democrats joined 220 Republicans in voting for the marriage penalty tax cut when it passed the House in July, a dozen shy of the two-thirds requirement for an override. Even if the House were to approve the override, there is little chance the Senate would follow suit. The House was voting Wednesday.

Last week, the House fell 14 votes short of those needed to override Clinton's veto of a bill abolishing estate taxes, another issue the GOP will highlight in fall election campaigns.

The marriage penalty bill would cut income taxes by $292 billion over 10 years for almost all married couples, particularly the 25 million with two incomes who pay more than they would if single. The legislation would also cut taxes for millions of couples who now enjoy an income tax bonus, generally those in which one spouse earns the bulk of household income.

When he vetoed the bill in August, Clinton cited statistics showing that the marriage penalty bill, combined with other GOP tax cuts, would give families in the top 1 percent income group an average tax cut of $16,000, compared to only $220 for those earning middle incomes.

``It provides little relief to families that need it most, while devoting a large fraction of its benefits to families with higher incomes,'' Clinton said in his veto message.

The president also said marriage penalty relief could be targeted to middle-class taxpayers at lower cost, preserving more of the surplus for other needs such as education spending, reducing federal debt and a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

But during a White House meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday, the president indicated there was still room for tax relief before Congress adjourns.

``We've got to decide which tax cuts we're for and how much does that cost this year,'' the president said.

The marriage penalty bill would:

—Gradually expand the bottom 15 percent income tax bracket for married couples so it is twice the current corresponding bracket for single taxpayers.

—Raise the standard deduction for married couples who do not itemize so that it's equal to that of two single people.

—Increase the earned income tax credit limit for low-income families by $2,000 a year.

—Extend through 2004 a current exemption from the alternative minimum tax for married couples who claim personal credits, such as the $500 per-child tax credit.