NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tax Cuts Require Ground Work

July 14, 1999

Both House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bill Roth (R-Del.) have rolled out major tax bills. They expect to clear them through their respective committees within days and to have them voted on before the end of July.

Both would cut taxes over the next ten years by about $800 billion, using up most of the non-Social Security surplus that recent revisions to budget forecasts have provided. Archer's bill is more growth-oriented, while Roth's is designed more for getting Bill Clinton's signature by tilting toward those with low incomes. But there is no chance Clinton will sign either bill.

If their leaders were truly interested in getting a meaningful tax cut enacted, both the Finance Committee and Ways & Means Committee ought to have been holding hearings all year on major tax initiatives. Instead, they have done virtually nothing to build a record of why we need a big tax cut and why certain provisions, such as a cut in the capital gains tax, ought to be included. As a consequence, Republicans really have very little ammunition to use against the administration's counterattacks.

Since Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, I have been puzzled by their unwillingness and inability to use hearings to advance their agenda. Not only do they appear to view them as an unnecessary chore, but actually as something to be avoided unless compelled to do them. I believe much of their legislative failure stems from this aversion.

Hearings provide members of Congress with expert opinions, facts and analyses on complex issues; they give opportunities to those who care about certain issues a chance to have their views heard; and they can be excellent marketing tools for advancing legislation.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, July 14, 1999.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues