House moderates, including Rep. Jack F. Quinn, Friday vowed to block the Republican tax-cut plan unless the House gets to vote on a proposal to force Congress to work on balancing the budget before tax cuts could take effect.
Under an amendment backed by centrists of both parties, the tax cuts would only take effect once the Office of Management and Budget certifies that the budget will be balanced by the year 2002 or sooner.
Congress would be held to a strict "guide path" for deficit reduction. If Congress did not meet annual deficit-trimming targets, the tax cuts would be automatically revoked.
Quinn, R-Hamburg, said that if the Rules Committee does not allow the full House to vote on that proposal, he and other moderates will refuse to vote for the rule that must be passed before the full House can consider the tax cut package.
He estimated that between 25 and 30 Republicans will back the plan to put deficit reduction before tax cuts. Combined with Democrats who routinely vote against Republican rules, that's more than enough to sink the rule -- and thus the entire tax cut plan -- if the Republican leadership ignores the moderates' effort.
"This shouldn't be viewed as a threat," said Quinn. "This helps the leadership. It makes sure that our tax cuts are paid for."
Quinn said that he and other leaders of the effort met with House Speaker Newt Gingrich Friday, and that the speaker appeared receptive to the proposal.
Spokesmen for Gingrich, R-Ga., could not be reached for comment. But Ed Gillespie, spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said: "No one's had a chance to look at the proposal yet. We've been busy trying to get the welfare bill passed. We'll look at it next week."
The proposal runs counter to the Republican tax cut included in the "Contract With America," which calls for an immediate $188 billion, five-year tax reduction. That tax cut would include a $500 per child tax credit and a lower capital gains tax.
Quinn said the Republican centrists reached a deal Friday with 23 members of "the Coalition," a group of right-leaning Democrats who also believe deficit reduction should come before tax breaks.
"I disagree with the tax cut as it is in the Contract," said Quinn, who signed the Contract -- which merely called for a House vote on the tax plan -- last September. "We can't just say that we're balancing the budget. It has to be written into the law first."
The proposal is modeled on one introduced last month by Rep. Glen Browder, D-Ala. It would revoke the tax cuts unless the budget deficit is reduced by $25 billion each year until the budget is balanced in the year 2002.
Browder and Quinn both said they have seen little sentiment in favor of tax cuts back in their districts.
"The American people have a common-sense skepticism about proposals for indulging ourselves today with tax cuts, while promising to ease the future debt burden on our children," Browder said.
He said that under the proposal, "Tax cuts would be viewed as dividends that our country earns as we make progress toward balancing the budget."
Other members leading the effort include Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Michael Castle, R-Del., and Bill Orton, D-Utah.