It's Mutiny as GOP Tries to Give Away Tax Bounty

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Republicans have long believed that nothing is more American than revolting over taxes. House GOP leaders learned on Wednesday, however, that tax revolts can cut both ways. Though all Republicans and most Democrats believe that taxes can be reduced during the present era of budgetary plenty, a group of some 20 Republican moderates this week challenged their leadership’s signature proposal as too extravagant. Already, the moderates had succeeded in whittling down the Republican 10-year $864 billion tax-cut package to $792 billion. On Wednesday they went further and threatened to vote against even the reduced measure.

"The Republican moderates maintain that you can’t take this much money out of the budgetary pie without putting severe pressure on some critical parts of the government," says TIME congressional corresponent John Dickerson. Among the many areas that would be hit by huge tax cuts are programs devoted to clean air and clean water, education, air safety and parks. "These are things moderate Republicans hear voters in their district saying they want," says Dickerson. "In a time of prosperity, many people want the government to use the opportunity to take care of some problems." The possibility of losing a vote on a top Republican issue at the hands of their own troops has sent Republican leaders on an all-out internal lobbying blitz. The effort was rendered all the more critical when a New York Republican, Michael Forbes, announced last week he would become a Democrat, whittling down the GOP majority’s six-vote margin. Whichever way the vote goes, bruised House leaders will have spent a lot of capital keeping their soldiers in line in a fight that may get nowhere: The Senate is working on a much smaller tax-cut proposal, and at his Wednesday press conference President Clinton vowed to veto anything that approaches what he termed the "risky plan" of House leaders.