Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) and Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), the chairmen of Congress's two tax writing committees, will talk taxes with Office of Management and Budget Director Richard G. Darman apart from the formal budget negotiations with the White House, Democratic bargainers said yesterday.
Lawmakers in both parties expressed reservations about the arrangement, which participants said Darman had sought.
Perhaps as soon as next week, the Bush administration is expected to offer a proposal designed to raise as much as $25 billion in new revenue, congressional bargainers said. The administration's original budget plan called for $13.9 billion in new revenue.
In private meetings, Darman told Democratic leaders he did not want to initiate a discussion about taxes in the budget talks because of the deep division among congressional Republicans over President Bush's statement that higher tax revenue would be needed to deal with the federal budget deficit, participants said.
Darman said he preferred separate, private talks with Rostenkowsi, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Bentsen, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, according to the participants.
But GOP lawmakers warned the administration against seeking a separate peace. "It would be very unwise for the administration to simply strike a deal with the Democrats," said Sen. Bob Packwood (Ore.), the Senate Finance Committee's ranking Republican.
Darman and Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady met yesterday with GOP congressional leaders to review various tax options, including gasoline, tobacco, and alcohol taxes and levies on luxury items and the sale of stocks.
No decisions were made, but there was strong opposition to increasing personal income tax rates.
Democrats also voiced concern about separating discussions about taxes from the main budget talks and insisted that all decisions be ratified by the formal talks.
"The consensus is going to have to be reached with the whole group, not with particular subgroups of the negotiations," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.).