Clinton to veto GOP tax cut for married couples

EDGARTOWN, Mass. - President Clinton plans to denounce Republican budget priorities as he announces he is vetoing a GOP-sponsored tax cut for married couples, including those now penalized by higher rates.

Clinton was using his weekly radio address Saturday to say he was vetoing the $292 billion, 10-year tax cut, said a Democrat familiar with his plans, speaking on condition of anonymity. The veto is no surprise, since the president promised to kill the measure even before the Senate gave final congressional approval to the legislation on July 21.

The veto, which comes between the two political parties' national nominating conventions, is tricky for Democrats.

Many Republicans believe Clinton's veto gives them a winning political issue by demonstrating that with a GOP-controlled Congress, a Democratic president is the only obstacle to sweeping tax reductions.

At a campaign rally Friday in Akron, Ohio, GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush ridiculed Clinton's decision to veto the bill. ''What kind of a tax code is it that discourages marriage?'' he said.

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Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona sounded a similar note in the Republican radio address Saturday, saying that ''at that special and sacred moment when the bride and groom say 'I do,' they also unwittingly say 'I do' to higher taxes.''

Clinton and Vice President Al Gore ''still peddle the shop-worn slogan that correcting this injustice is just a break for the rich,'' Hayworth said. ''But Americans know better. We understand that two spouses earning $25,000 each are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.''

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Clinton kept his own tone light at a fund-raising dinner Friday night on the Massachusetts resort island of Nantucket. As he has done frequently of late, he got a laugh when he compared GOP tax cuts to a sweepstakes letter that says ''you may have won $10 million.''

''Anyone who went out the next day and spent the $10 million ought to vote for them,'' Clinton said. ''If you didn't, you better stick with us.''

Clinton and Gore call the GOP tax cut plan irresponsible because, they claim, it would spend all the projected budget surplus over the coming decade. Some of that money may not turn up, Clinton says.

Republicans got some help from Democrats in passing the marriage tax cut package. The marriage penalty is the popular name for the extra taxes 25 million couples must pay because of a structural quirk in the tax code.

But the bill would also cut taxes for about as many additional couples who now enjoy a marriage ''bonus,'' paying less than they would if they were single. This largely affects families in which one spouse earns most of the family income.

Most of the bill's tax reductions come from enlarging the bottom 15 percent tax bracket and increasing the standard tax deduction for couples filing jointly.

Republicans argued that the measure would benefit millions of middle-class Americans while using just a small portion of the projected $2.2 trillion, 10-year federal surplus. The figure excludes even larger projected Social Security surpluses.

The bill passed both the Senate and House last month by less than the two-thirds majorities needed to override a presidential veto.


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