The Torch Lights a Bipartisan Path
Jude Wanniski
May 18, 1999


Memo To: Website browsers, fans and clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Bipartisan, Supply-Side Tax Cut!!!!

I've been telling my Polyconomics clients about the Coverdell-Torricelli tax bill for several weeks, since it first surfaced in early February. It was inspired bySen. Paul Coverdell [R-GA] who approached Sen. Bob (The Torch) Torricelli [D-NJ] about reaching across the aisle that divides the Senate on partisan lines, and actually designing a tax bill that could satisfy the political needs of both parties. The special thrill I get is that I supported the election of Torricelli in my home state of New Jersey when he ran in 1996, explaining to my Republican friends that he is the first genuine supply-side Democrat I've seen among northern liberals since the death of John F. Kennedy. When criticized by other liberals for joining in this effort, he replied to the NYTimes that he wasn't told when he joined the Democratic Party that he could not favor lower taxes.

What is now really interesting is that their bill has picked up support in the House from Rep. Lindsey Graham [R-SC] and Rep. Robert Wexler [D-FL], who fought each other in the Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings of the President. Also joining in the legislation is Rep. Bill Jefferson [D-LA], a protégé of Charlie Rangel [D-NY] and a member of the House Ways&Means Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus. As word spreads of the legislation, more Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, are realizing the legislation is designed in a way that will appeal to their constituents. If there is going to be a tax cut this year to propel the bottom of the economy upward as capital forms via the supply-side tax cuts, this will be it. Here are two stories that ran Monday, one in the Knight-Ridder papers, the other in papers that take Associated Press -- which almost never covers the introduction of a bill, but which saw the value in this one.

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Bipartisan work on tax bill suggests impeachment wounds may be healing
17 May 1999
By Michelle R. Davis
Knight Ridder Newspapers (KRT)

WASHINGTON -- Spring has become the season of forgiveness in Washington. After the partisan winter hostilities that marked President Clinton's impeachment and Senate trial, some old foes in Congress are making nice and teaming up on legislation.

And so, a pair of odd couples -- Reps. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Robert Wexler, D-Fla., and Sens. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., and Paul Coverdell, R-Ga. -- shared the spotlight this week (05-13) to announce their cooperation on a modest tax-cut bill. ''I'm proud to be part of something constructive,'' Graham said. ''The last year in this Congress has been tough. It's been bitter.''

So bitter that many inside and outside Congress predicted the impeachment process had irrevocably damaged relations between the parties. Nowhere was that gap more on display than between Graham, recognized for his folksy performance as one of the 13 House prosecutors, and Wexler, the passionate, always-outraged Clinton defender on the House Judiciary Committee.

The two television-friendly politicians routinely appeared on talk shows, trading views, often sharply, on whether Clinton's denial in sworn testimony of an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky merited his ouster from office. On the dais of the Judiciary Committee, each ferociously argued for his side.

In the Senate, Torricelli and Coverdell also were impeachment opposites. Torricelli regularly argued on behalf of the president during breaks in the trial and ardently fought the House managers' efforts to question live witnesses in the Senate. Coverdell voted to convict the president on both articles of impeachment. But Torricelli and Coverdell have joined hands before, particularly on education legislation.

The bitterness that divided House members was not so apparent in the Senate. The politicians acknowledge they make for an odd grouping, but said they hope it will improve Congress' image for the American people to see them working together. Graham said he got involved with the tax cut, called the Small Savers Act, in part because of relationships he forged during the impeachment process.

''I got to meet them through the trial,'' Graham said of the two senators. ''I got to know Mr. Wexler through the hearings because we sat there for months yelling at each other.'' Added Wexler: ''I'm excited that this is a bipartisan effort and that two members of the Judiciary Committee have crossed party lines to do what is right for America.''

The Small Savers Act has already been introduced in the Senate by Torricelli and Coverdell. Graham said he will introduce it in the House next week. Among other things, it would increase the number of taxpayers eligible for the lowest, 15 percent tax bracket; exempt some low- and middle-class Americans -- many senior citizens -- from paying capital gains; and allow taxpayers to increase contributions to traditional IRAs from $2,000 to $3,000 a year.

But the buzz on Capitol Hill this week was not the details of the modest tax cut, but the display of cooperation behind it. ''It is an interesting combination for sure,'' said University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato. ''It may be reassuring to some who wondered whether these kinds of bipartisan coalitions could survive the impeachment hellfire.''

Indeed, what Democrats once characterized as a witch hunt by Clinton haters, Torricelli now described as a clash between worthy opponents. Though on opposite sides of the impeachment process, he said, some Democratic senators developed a grudging respect for some Republican members' intellect and arguments.

''Lindsey and I got to know each other because I thought he was an effective advocate for a cause for which I had no sympathy,'' Torricelli said. Thursday was the first time Graham and Torricelli had seen each other face to face since the impeachment trial in the Senate. The senator made it clear to Graham that when it came to the tax bill, things would be different this time around. ''We'll allow you to have live witnesses,'' Torricelli said.

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Associated Press
Impeachment foes Graham, Wexler team up on tax relief bill
AP Tax Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Passionate foes during President Clinton's impeachment, Reps. Lindsey Graham and Robert Wexler teamed up Thursday on a tax relief bill and expressed hope those dark days would fade. ''The last year in this Congress has been tough. It's been bitter,'' said Graham, R-S.C. ''I'm glad to be part of something constructive.''

Graham was one of the House managers who unsuccessfully urged the Senate to remove Clinton from office after the House had approved two articles of impeachment related to the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky. Wexler, D-Fla., was an outspoken member of the Judiciary Committee who accused the GOP of blind partisanship in pursuing the president.

Despite those differences, Wexler and Graham said they did manage to get acquainted during the impeachment proceedings and decided they had common goals of pushing for middle-class tax relief this year. ''I am hopeful this kind of bipartisan spirit will prevail,'' Wexler said.

Three months since the Senate acquitted Clinton, Wexler and Graham announced they will sponsor the House version of legislation originally developed by Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., and Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga. The measure gradually would expand the lowest 15 percent income tax bracket to include more people, exempt the first $5,000 in long-term capital gains from taxes by 2004, raise the limit on IRA contributions from $2,000 to $3,000, and exempt the first $500 in a couple's dividend and interest income from taxes, $250 for singles.

''It had previously been my view that nothing good came out of the impeachment proceedings,'' Torricelli told reporters. ''There is a chance to resurrect something good.'' During the impeachment trial, the House managers were unable to persuade senators to approve live witness testimony, but Torricelli told Graham things were different on this tax bill. ''We'll allow you to have live witnesses,'' he joked.

Republican budget resolutions adopted by the House and Senate envision almost $800 billion in tax relief over the next decade. Committees with tax jurisdiction already are looking at options; the bipartisan bill discussed Thursday would cost roughly $134 billion over five years, sponsors said.