CHICAGO, JULY 13 -- Vice President Quayle rallied his party's most loyal troops today, challenging members of the Republican National Committee who stood behind President Bush's no-new-taxes pledge in 1988 to place the blame for prospective tax increases on the Democratic-controlled Congress.
"The president has acted responsibly," Quayle said. "He has taken the first step in calling for a budget summit. He has gone the extra mile in announcing his willingness to consider tax revenue increases. Now it is time for some action from the Democratic leadership in Congress."
Republican officials here said Quayle's remarks were part of a White House-coordinated strategy to start shifting blame for some of the Bush administration's biggest headaches to congressional Democrats.
On Thursday, presidential pollster Robert M. Teeter sounded a similar theme, telling committee members Bush has not reversed himself on taxes but is simply addressing "political reality."
"The reality is you cannot pass anything in government without agreement of the Democrats in Congress; they control both houses," Teeter said. "That does not mean he has changed his mind. He has put the ball deep into the Democrats' territory."
It is now up to the Democrats, Republicans have said here, to propose spending cuts that will limit the need for a tax increase and approve other Bush-favored proposals, such as the capital gains tax reduction that Congress has rejected.
"Today, I call on congressional Democrats to come forth with their proposed spending cuts," Quayle said. "Their silence on this issue, as usual, is deafening."
In Washington, congressional negotiators have continued to meet privately with White House budget officials on Capitol Hill. No specific tax proposals, however, have been agreed upon.
To symbolize Republicans' determination to slash spending in order to reduce the federal budget deficit, House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (Ill.) wielded a chainsaw as he emerged from a strategy session in Washington with Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady, Office of Management and Budget Director Richard G. Darman and GOP negotiators. The idea was for Michel to use the apparatus to shred a paper labeled "spending" that sheathed its blade. But in what one lobbyist suggested "may have been a symbolic failure," the paper sheath just danced on the blade.
The closing of the Republican ranks around Bush on tax matters today extended to Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson (R), whose assessment of Bush's tax predicament differed in one key aspect from the White House's version.
While Teeter, Quayle and Republican Congressional Campaign Committee Co-Chairman Edward J. Rollins have said that talk of tax increases does not represent a reversal for Bush, Thompson said it does.
"It is clear beyond any doubt to me that the president's position on federal taxes that he took during the 1988 campaign was deeply held, deeply believed and dramatically defined," Thompson said.
"If we cannot elect men and women to serve us who have the courage to change even deeply held beliefs . . . then our country will never be served by the institution that binds us all together -- politics -- or the party that binds us -- the Republican Party."
Comparing Bush's decision to discuss tax increases to Abraham Lincoln's decision to free the slaves, Thompson called the federal budget deficit a "monstrous and immoral" problem that Bush must resolve.
Quayle also used his speech here to bash a favorite GOP target -- New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo (D), considered a likely presidential candidate.
After New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio (D) raised taxes this year, Quayle said, Cuomo "said it was so good that the governor of New Jersey should consider running for president."
In an aside from his prepared remarks, Quayle added: "Of course, the principal qualification for any Democratic candidate is a desire to raise taxes."
Staff writer John E. Yang in Washington contributed to this report.