The only way for President Clinton to gain passage of a deficit-reduction package in both houses of Congress is to fashion a new plan and deal with the key congressional factions directly, Sen. John Breaux (D) of Louisiana told a Monitor breakfast June 29.
"I think they have to be more clear as to what they want out of the package in the conference, so that the [liberal] black caucus can compromise with the president, the [House and Senate conservatives] and others can compromise with the president, as opposed to having to compromise with each other, which I think may never occur," says Senator Breaux, a rising star in the Senate as chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Conference.
The packages passed by each house contain substantial differences. Topping the list is an energy tax. The House approved a Btu tax that would raise $72 billion over five years, while the Senate's transportation-fuels tax would raise only $22 billion.
"A broad-based energy tax is going to be a feature of the bill," says Breaux, also a member of the key Senate Finance Committee. "[But] I think that trying to blend it between a Btu tax and a broad-based transportation tax is not workable," he adds.
Breaux would like to see a revival of his proposed 7.3-cent-a-gallon tax on transportation fuels. "Gas would still be substantially cheaper than it was in 1990, 1980, 1970 with that addition. If there's anything we should tax, it's something that's decreasing in price.