By Kate Alexander
WASHINGTON – Maryland’s congressional delegation split along party lines Thursday in a House vote to approve the heart of President Bush’s $1.6 trillion tax cut.
The $958 billion Economic Growth and Tax Relief Act of 2001 passed by a nearly partisan margin with only 10 Democrats joining the entire Republican majority.
The votes was the same for Maryland, with all four Republican representatives voting for it and all four Democrats opposed.
Democrats advanced their own plan for a $585 billion tax cut, but it was soundly defeated Thursday.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said that while he supports a tax cut, he was concerned that the size of the president’s package threatens important programs such as Social Security and Medicare, much like it did after the passage of President Reagan’s 1981 tax plan.
“Let’s not engage in another riverboat gamble that threatens to sink the American economy in a sea of red ink,” said Hoyer, who took to the floor of the House to defend the failed Democratic alternative plan.
But Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, said the existence of a surplus demands that it is returned to the taxpayers.
“The only question is who needs the money more and who will be spending it — families who are paying more in taxes than ever before or the federal government which is running a surplus?” Bartlett said in a prepared statement. “I’m betting on the taxpayers.”
Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, echoed that sentiment.
“Today’s working families pay the highest level of federal income tax they have ever paid in peacetime. They are wrongfully overcharged, and, like any overpayment, they are entitled to a refund,” he said in a release.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, joined the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus to decry the focus of the tax cut on income taxes, which are not paid by many low-income workers, as opposed to the ubiquitous payroll taxes.
Republicans rushed the bill to a vote without any committee hearings. While it sailed through the House with only minimal debate and no Republican defections, it is not expected to progress through the Senate as easily.
With a dead-even split in the Senate and a number of wavering Republicans, most observers expect the real fight to happen in the upper chamber when it takes up the measure in May.