A September 27 Washington Post editorial falsely claimed that congressional leaders -- taking into consideration the Iraq war, rising national debt, and the combined disasters of hurricanes Katrina and Rita -- "have rightly dropped proposals for yet more tax cuts." This assertion is contradicted by the Post's own reporting, which points out that tax cuts are in fact a major component of President Bush's hurricane relief package. Additionally, Republican plans to extend Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and repeal the estate tax have not been "dropped"; Republican congressional leaders are, at best, divided over how to approach tax policy in the wake of the hurricane disasters.
The September 27 Post editorial criticized the Louisiana congressional delegation for requesting a $250 billion federal reconstruction package. According to the Post:
The nation is at war. It is mired in debt. It has been hit by floods and hurricanes. In the face of this adversity, congressional leaders have rightly dropped proposals for yet more tax cuts, and some have suggested removing the pork from the recently passed transportation bill. But this spirit of forbearance has not touched the Louisiana congressional delegation. The state's representatives have come up with a request for $250 billion in federal reconstruction funds for Louisiana alone -- more than $50,000 per person in the state.
On September 15, Bush laid out his strategy to rebuild the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina, which included tax cuts as one of the five major proposals. Congress approved $6.1 billion in new tax cuts for the area on September 21, according to a September 22 Washington Post article.
Additionally, a September 27 Washington Post article reported that congressional Republicans have indicated that tax cuts will not be sacrificed to pay for the damage from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. According to the Post:
Squeezed between a conservative clamor for spending cuts and the rising cost of hurricane relief, Republican congressional leaders will respond this week with a public relations offensive to win over angry conservatives -- but no substantive changes in budget policy.
Prodded by conservatives, President Bush and GOP leaders have said they are willing to offset those costs with spending cuts. But realistically, the political will does not exist to vote through the cuts that have been proposed, said House leadership aides and sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Nor have Republican leaders given serious thought to reversing course on tax cuts, lawmakers said yesterday.
"I don't see any change in fiscal policy," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), a former vice chairman of the Budget Committee.
Congressional Quarterly reported on September 3 that Senate Finance Committee aides "are assembling a $90 billion package of tax breaks that would extend all the major tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 through 2010, reduce for one year the effect of the alternative minimum tax on the middle class, and renew for one year expiring business tax breaks such as the research and development tax credit, Senate GOP aides said." Media Matters for America could find no indication that any of these tax proposals have been willingly abandoned by the GOP, but have instead been temporarily deferred as matters of decorum and political expediency.
The Post reported on September 21 a division among congressional Republicans over how to handle tax policy. According to the Post: "Congressional Republicans are not arguing with Bush's pledge that the federal government will lead the Louisiana and Mississippi recovery. But they are insisting that the massive cost -- as much as $200 billion -- be paid for. Conservatives are calling for spending cuts to existing programs, a few GOP moderates are entertaining the possibility of a tax increase, and many in the middle want to freeze Bush tax cuts that have yet to take effect." The Post further reported that Treasury Secretary John Snow advocated placing on the "back burner" agenda items such as cutting the estate tax and making permanent Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts -- which drew protests from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), "who said waiting on taxes was unacceptable."
A September 21 article in The Hill quoted Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) suggesting that plans to repeal the estate tax have merely been delayed by Hurricane Katrina, because "it would be 'unseemly' to consider such a repeal in current conditions."