House GOP seeks support for limit on tax increases Rate rise would require two-thirds vote of Congress

April 14, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans will celebrate income tax day tomorrow by voting on a constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote by both Houses of Congress to raise federal taxes.

Billing the amendment as a demonstration that Republicans are "the party of tax relief for families and jobs" in this election year, House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote to his 235 Republican colleagues last week telling them of a poll that he said showed the proposal was a "powerful communications tool." Many carried that message to their districts in town meetings yesterday.

But very few House members have seen the actual wording of the proposed amendment, which was negotiated privately just before Congress took its spring break. So there are few confident estimates about whether the measure will get the two-thirds vote required for constitutional amendments.

Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, the majority leader, said its chances were "very problematic," adding that "it's just a question of what happens on the Democratic side of the aisle," where leaders are marshaling opposition.

Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he thought the measure would be defeated because there were only 279 votes (including 52 Democrats) in January 1995, for a more modest approach -- a rules change that applied only to the House and required a lesser, three-fifths vote to raise taxes. If all members vote, a two-thirds majority is 290.

Mr. Frank, the subcommittee's senior Democrat, criticized the proposal, saying it abandoned democracy. He said, "The fundamental principle of democracy is that the majority can make these decisions."

Win or lose, Republicans are using the amendment to make the political case that they are on the taxpayers' side.

They will follow it later in the week with a vote on a "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights" that would give taxpayers greater rights in disputes with the IRS. Taxpayers could sue for $1 million for reckless collection actions.

The tax issue might also come before the Senate next week despite a heavy schedule there, including legislation on immigration and health insurance.

Bob Dole, the majority leader and presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has warned members he might call the amendment up at any time, even though it is unlikely to command a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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