The signal comes despite efforts by the White House to squeeze out more votes in favor of a much larger tax cut by pressuring lawmakers in their home states. The letter to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Ranking Member Kent Conrad, D-N.D., shows that as the Senate prepares to return to Washington to consider tax-cutting legislation, those pressure tactics apparently failed.
"Rather than crafting a conference report that may not pass or passes by only one vote, we urge you to pursue a strategy that would result in broad, bipartisan support in the House and Senate," the foursome wrote.
Earlier this month, Breaux and Nelson had complained that the White House seemed unwilling to engage in serious negotiations over the tax cut, which the president has said should be $1.6 trillion.
Before the vote on the Senate budget resolution to shrink the tax cut to $1.2 trillion, White House officials and outside groups tried persuasion in home states. For example, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels contacted newspapers in Nebraska to prod Nelson into voting for a large tax cut, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card spotlighted Jeffords through the media in Vermont.
"The week of the vote, Andrew Card made calls to Vermont media outlets, and there has been an ad campaign," Jeffords press secretary Erik Smulson said. "But paying a political price? Senator Jeffords is not paying a political price."
The Senate will return this month to begin consideration of that bill that would pass the actual tax cut itself, and with this new letter, Bush faces a bigger hurdle than ever to get his big tax cut passed.
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