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Clinton's Proposed Tax Breaks Flounder in Congress

WE know that President Clinton's $16.3 billion jobs package is in trouble after a filibuster by Senate Republicans. But what about the president's $21 billion proposed tax break for businesses?

House Speaker Thomas Foley (D) of Washington predicted Saturday that the investment tax credit - intended to spur companies into buying machinery and equipment - would be approved.

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But the tax break may be in trouble because of opposition from the powerful chairmen of Congress's tax-writing committees. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York says the tax break would conflict with the White House plan to raise other taxes by $272 billion.

Senator Moynihan adds that he and Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D) of Illinois, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, "are pretty well pledged to the idea" that the way to proceed is to eliminate tax loopholes, not create them.

Part of the difficulty for the proposed tax breaks is that not even business groups support them; they view the president's plan as little more than a short-term gimmick. But if the tax breaks are not approved, and if a substantial part of the jobs program is gutted, then the president will have lost the battle for his economic-stimulus package. President plays hardball

Bill Clinton is starting to show some of Lyndon Johnson's ability to deal with Congress. At the very least, he has learned the Texan's secret for success on Capitol Hill: Reward your friends and punish your enemies.

Sen. Richard Shelby can testify to that. The Alabama Democrat has opposed the president's economic plan on the grounds that it contains too many taxes and too little in spending cuts. He especially affronted the administration by attacking the plan in front of TV cameras while Vice President Al Gore Jr. was standing nearby.

The White House responded by moving 90 management jobs at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration from Alabama to Texas. Then, the administration hauled out its heavy artillery: It gave Mr. Shelby only one ticket to the White House ceremony honoring the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide, the national football champions.

By contrast, Sen. Howell Heflin (D) of Alabama, who has consistently supported the president, received 15 tickets.

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