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Democrats May Walk if GOP Denies Debate Over Alternative Tax Bill

House Democrats reiterated their criticism of the Republican tax-cut plan Wednesday and threatened rebellion on the floor if denied the opportunity to present an alternative proposal.

“Let’s hope for the best … or we’ll have to create our own environment” in which to discuss the Democratic plan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said without signaling definitively whether Democrats would walk off the floor in protest Friday.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, charged that Republicans are afraid to let Democrats debate their plan for fear of defection.

“They will do anything they can to avoid giving us an opportunity for Members to be able to say they voted for something,” Rangel said. “If they cut us out … then the people are still stuck with their bill.”

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted that some Republicans would be tempted to vote for the Democratic plan if given the option.

Democrats used a Wednesday press conference to unveil their $129 billion jobs and growth proposal, which they say will do more to stimulate the economy than the $550 billion GOP bill voted out of Ways and Means along party lines Tuesday.

“There is virtually no question that the House GOP’s tax bill will throw our economy into a sea of deficit and debt, disproportionately benefit the most affluent citizens, steal from Social Security and pass the costs onto future generations,” Hoyer said in a statement.

Democratic leaders pounded President Bush for his record of negative job growth — the country has lost 2.7 million jobs since he took office — and charged that none of the GOP plans would bring jobs back.

“Half a million job losses in the last three months and 8.8 million unemployed Americans should qualify as a wake-up call to the president and his economic advisers,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) railed.

Democrats say their plan will create 1.1 million jobs this year, and they point out that the job growth Republicans promised with the 2001 tax cut never materialized.

“Republicans haven’t stimulated the economy so the Democrats will,” Pelosi said.

Finally, Democrats promised $44 billion to cash-strapped states and pledged to extend unemployment benefits to laid-off workers.

Responding to a proposal revealed Tuesday by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) countered: “George W. Bush and Republicans have a jobs and growth plan that will pass this week.”

He added: “Tom Daschle and the Democrats have a government growth proposal that will get us the stimulus they seek — none.”

While House Democrats face an uphill battle in getting their plan to the floor, Senate Democrats hope to derail Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) plan in committee.

So far it appears he is one vote shy of the majority he needs to report his $416 billion out of committee Thursday.

“I am confident they will be able to put together a bill,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said about the committee, of which he is a member.

However, Republicans are already discussing possible ways to bypass the Finance panel and bring the bill to the Senate floor if Grassley cannot find the votes.

If he can find offsets to keep the total price tag under $350 billion, Republicans have a better chance of passing it through the full Senate as some moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats have said they would support the smaller tax-cut package.

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