House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) questioned President Bush's plan to cut taxes on stock dividends yesterday, arguing that it would favor the wealthy.
In her first news conference as leader, Pelosi said much of the tax package would benefit the rich. She said 25 percent of the dividend tax credit would go to Americans earning $1 million a year and that some of the companies that would benefit from it do not pay taxes.
"The thought that this helps the American people is an illusion," she said.
Pelosi also suggested that the White House plan to extend unemployment benefits was "too little, too late, but we'll just see how little it is."
Pelosi's sharp criticism of the president's economic plan signaled her determination to draw distinctions between the two parties. "The American people expect and deserve the members of Congress to find our common ground where we can for the American people," she said. "But where we cannot, they expect us to stand our ground."
Pelosi did not disclose any details of the House Democrats' economic stimulus package, which she plans to unveil Monday. She ruled out a payroll tax holiday, however, saying that would drain funds from the Social Security trust fund.
According to Democratic officials, the package includes a tax rebate for families, a business tax cut package and fiscal relief for the states in the form of grants for homeland security and infrastructure development.
"What we're talking about is something that will be immediate, that would be fiscally sound, which would not do much harm to our budget," she said.
Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) also blasted the Bush plan in prepared remarks for a radio address he will deliver today.
"The tax break the president is said to be proposing is the wrong idea at the wrong time to help the wrong people," Daschle said.
While much of the news conference focused on the economy, Pelosi also answered questions about foreign affairs and her relations with GOP leaders. Pelosi said she had "a good rapport" with House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).
She had harsh words for the North Korean regime, noting she had witnessed the economic devastation in North Korea firsthand.
"The people are poor, starving and brainwashed to a large extent," Pelosi said, calling it "a very dangerous situation."
She suggested that the United States could make diplomatic efforts through China and emphasized that North Korea had already demonstrated its willingness to spread weapons of mass destruction.