Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Republican strategists expect to gain Congressional seats and GOP favor in 2008, predicting that Charlie Rangel's, D-N.Y., new tax bill will be a bust with the American public.

Rangel's bill has a few good things in it, like lowering corporate rates, but he hopes to accomplish this and other goals by raising taxes on millions of small businesses, investors and two-earner couples.

Democrats have every right to be worried. Why unveil a tax bill as Democrats approach a pivotal election year? Why give Republicans an early campaign target to shoot down, especially one that isn't going anywhere next year?

Republicans, on the other hand, are gleeful at the prospect of running against what they call an income redistribution scheme that will improve their chances of making gains in Congress and in the presidential election.

At a strategy meeting called by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., who ran the House Republican campaign committee last year, said voter anger over the bill "will boost GOP numbers in the House."

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey laid out the likely Republican counteroffensive for 2008: "It's obviously a grand income redistribution scheme by Charlie Rangel to raise taxes on working Americans, so they can take more people off the tax rolls and pay for Hillary Clinton's plan to take over health care."

"It helps Republicans and gives us something to run against, something serious. Rangel's given Republicans hope that they could take the House back," Armey told me.

Norquist is even more ecstatic over Rangel's plan, calling it "the longest suicide note in recent history."

"It's a tremendous opportunity for the Republicans. This is a gift from the gods. This is something Republicans could not have done for themselves," he said.

Rangel's plan would slap a hefty 4 percent surtax on single taxpayers who earn more than $150,000 and on married couples making more than $200,000. In effect, they are "putting a massive new marriage penalty into the tax code," Ways and Means Republicans charged.

Democrats argue that they are merely taxing the rich, though a wife and husband who each earn $100,000 could be plumbers, autoworkers, chefs or office managers. Add a few children, and these taxpayers hardly consider themselves rich.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.