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The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington
"The Senate is likely to give Mr Bush a harder run"
 real 28k

Friday, 9 March, 2001, 03:29 GMT
Bush wins big victory on tax
President Bush addresses rally in North Dakota
Bush: Rallying support for tax cuts
US President George W Bush scored an initial political victory on Thursday when the House of Representatives approved the centrepiece of his tax cut plan.

The House voted primarily along party lines (230-198) to cut income taxes by $958bn over 10 years by reducing rates across the board.

The American people had a victory today

President Bush
The measure is part of Mr Bush's wider $1.6 trillion tax cut which is at the heart of his economic agenda.

The income tax cut is likely to face a tougher battle in the evenly divided Senate where some Republicans oppose it.

Rallying cry

Mr Bush praised the outcome as he began a five-day, cross-country tour to rally support for tax cuts.

"One House down and now the Senate to go," he told cheering crowds in Fargo, North Dakota. "The American people had a victory today."

House Democrat leader Dick Gephardt
Mr Gephardt: Death blow to bipartisanship

He said the vote was the first step towards ''fiscal sanity'' and called on his supporters to write to their senators urging them to back it.

Republicans used their majority in the House to secure the tax cut passage, prompting calls from Democrats that Mr Bush had abandoned his campaign pledge of bipartisanship.

Democrats said the cut was too big and would benefit the rich while hurting government programmes.

Mr Bush says the projected $5.6 trillion budget surplus makes it possible to reduce taxes without cutting government programmes.

"'When you're running surpluses that big, particularly with your economy beginning to sputter", Mr Bush said, "it ought to say something loud and clear... and that means folks are overtaxed."

Rate reductions

The Bush plan will reduce the top rate of tax from almost 40% to 33% and lower the bottom rate from 15% to 10%.

It will also reduce the total number of tax brackets from five to four.

Republican leaders Bill Thomas and  J. Dennis Hastert
Republicans give Mr Bush the good news
The House approved Mr Bush's Republican plan after rejecting a Democrat-sponsored alternative.

Democrats came away from the vote bruised and bitter.

"It's killed bipartisanship," House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt said of the vote.

Blue dogs

Even a group of 33 moderate-conservative Democrats who call themselves the "Blue Dogs" were upset.

"Basically, I think they're jamming us," said one of them, Marion Berry.

Analysts warn that Mr Bush will lose in the long run if he alienates House Democrats at the beginning of his term.

But Republican lawmakers say the Democratic complaining is simply part of the legislative rough-and-tumble of Washington.

"They can posture, but that's part of the game around here," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

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See also:

01 Mar 01 | Americas
Democrats declare war on Bush cuts
12 Feb 01 | Business
President Bush's tax cure
08 Feb 01 | Business
Can Bush avert recession?
04 Jan 01 | Business
Bush backs rate cut
14 Dec 00 | Business
Tax cuts and free trade
27 Oct 00 | Business
How to spend the surplus
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