Robert Novak

 During the conference, some of these Republicans told colleagues it would be bad politics to follow spending cuts for the poor with tax cuts for the rich. They had bought into Democratic class warfare while rejecting Thomas's certifiable claims of how middle class Americans benefit from capital gains and dividends tax reductions.

 A subsequent Republican whip count showed insufficient support to pass the tax bill, reflecting a decline in discipline in House GOP ranks since Tom DeLay stepped aside as majority leader. A leaders-only meeting later Friday confirmed they did not have the votes. Besides, all attention was on the vote to counter Democratic Rep. John Murtha's defection from the Iraq war. House consideration of the tax bill was postponed.

 That postpones House correction of a Senate-passed tax bill crafted to the desires of one liberal Republican: Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. Her vote was needed to get the bill out of the Finance Committee, and she would not give it if the capital gains and dividend provisions were included. The oil windfall profits taxation was also described as necessary to secure Snowe's vote.

 But the un-Republican tax bill cannot be blamed entirely on one New England liberal. The Finance Committee chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley, came to Congress as an Iowa conservative and still talks a good conservative game. But Republican colleagues call him a prairie populist who was a willing co-conspirator with Snowe bashing big oil. His Senate bill is described by supply-siders as filled with "tax pork" enriching special interests.

 Those supply-siders now count on Bill Thomas, a master legislator but never a conservative favorite. When Congress returns, he has to get his bill through the House and then prevail over a stubborn Grassley in the conference committee in order to keep the tax Santa Claus alive.


 I erred in a recent by column by reporting that April Foley, President Bush's choice for Export-Import Bank president, was never a corporate or government executive. She was Export-Import Bank first vice president from Dec. 15, 2003, to July 20, 2005.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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