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Cheney Casts Final Vote as Congress Passes $350 Billion Tax-Cut Package

With the tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Cheney, the Senate passed a $350 billion package of tax cuts and state aid Friday morning.

The House passed the bill earlier in the day, so the measure now heads to the White House for President Bush’s signature.

Republicans got the reduction in capital gains and dividend income tax President Bush sought with the help of Democratic Sens. Zell Miller (Ga.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), in addition to Cheney, who stayed in town in the event his vote would be needed.

Miller’s vote was never in question as he supported Bush’s initial $726 billion package from the outset. But Nelson, whom Bush has taken to calling “Nelly,” was heavily lobbied by the White House and had said he would back a plan as long as it did not exceed $350 billion and included aid for cash-strapped states.

The final package — as approved by the conference committee Thursday — offers states $20 billion.

Ultimately three Republicans refused to back the agreement brokered by Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), the GOP leadership and the White House. They were: Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

While Chafee and McCain did not vote for any version of the tax package, including what was instructed within the budget resolution, Snowe was a swing vote who helped move the bill out of committee only to vote against it in the end.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) was another swing vote who helped move the Senate’s version out of committee but did not vote for the compromise conference report.

Negotiations between Grassley and Thomas had grown tense, with Thomas, who is known for being short-tempered, storming out on Grassley at one point. And the two will likely enter into more negotiations this Congress, on issues such as Medicare reform.

“I hope to educate Mr. Thomas that he ought to show a little more respect to a person of equal rank,” Grassley said after the final vote.

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