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DEMOCRATS WANT MORE SPECIFICS BEFORE ACTING ON BUSH'S TAX-CUT PROPOSAL

Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Tuesday that Democrats won't act on President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut until the White House provides specifics and Congress has adopted a budget.

The New York Democrat warned that the 10-year, across-the-board reduction would exceed the president's projection and actually total $2 trillion.

As Bush campaigned for business tax cuts in northern Virginia, Democrats across the political spectrum urged caution on the White House proposal.

Rep. Charles W. Stenholm of Texas, chairman of the House's conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats, warned that passing Bush's tax bill would not leave enough money to upgrade the nation's military.

Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, the new chairman of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council, said he favors a tax cut, adding, "We don't want go back to deficits, increasing the national debt."

"I would like to see some tax cuts," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. "But I also believe that we have to continue to pay down our debt, we have to invest in education, health care and the environment. These projected surpluses . . . are not in the bank waiting to be spent. These are projections based on forecasts riddled with uncertainty."

Rep. John J. LaFalce of the Town of Tonawanda, the top Democrat on the House Banking Committee, will hold a forum Thursday to assess the validity of Bush's surplus estimates.

Bush will send Congress the outline for his tax bill Thursday. But the White House said Tuesday it has no specific date for delivering the budget for the federal fiscal year that will begin Oct. 1, saying only it would go to Capitol Hill this month.

Tuesday, at a McLean, Va., toy store, the president pitched his tax plan, saying he would seek to make it retroactive to Jan. 1 to deal with the current slowdown.

Bush said his tax cut would mean "there's more of your own money in your pocket to be able to make sure that your small business flourishes."

Aides to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said the administration was studying ways to get money into consumers' hands quickly, possibly by mailing checks for lump-sum rebates if Congress makes the cuts retroactive.

Bush played host today to a reunion of the "tax families" who helped him put a human face on his tax-cut proposals during the campaign last year.

"I look forward to you seeing the people's house," he told the 21 families outside the White House. "You helped me make my case, and now I intend to make good on my promise."

The president compared the tax burden of American families to a tollbooth planted on the road to the middle class. "We're going to start dismantling that tollbooth brick by brick," he said.

To members of Congress who hope to alter his tax proposal to make it larger or smaller, Bush said, "That would be inadvisable. It's the right size."

Schumer said the experience with Ronald Reagan's tax cut of 1981 showed the hazards of enacting a reduction without knowing specifics.

The Reagan bill was filled with loopholes that big lobbyists had sought for years.

Schumer said he was concerned that Bush aides might share Reagan motive for cutting revenues drastically -- to force Democrats to shrink federal benefits.

"I would not vote for a tax cut that would send us back into deficit," he said. "And 70 percent of the projected surplus of $5.6 trillion is in the five out-years; this is a 10-year projection."

"The average Congressional Budget Office projection over the past five years has been (wrong by) $400 billion," he added.

Even so, business lobbyists rallied behind Bush's tax-cut package Tuesday but said they would push for even greater reductions despite the president's warning.

Bush said Monday he opposes efforts to expand his proposal.

In a meeting with business leaders Tuesday, the president appeared unyielding, said Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Bush warned Congress not to tamper with his tax bill.

News wire services contributed to this report.

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