One of the Senate's moderate Republicans blocking President Bush's tax cut plan said on Sunday that he will stand his ground and resist White House pressure to vote more than a $350 billion reduction.
Asked if he would not go even a penny higher, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio replied: "You got it. And anybody that knows George Voinovich knows that when I say something I mean it."
Mr. Bush had asked Congress for $726 billion in cuts over 10 years. The House capped new tax relief at $550 billion, while the Senate agreed to cuts of no more than $350 billion. The White House has scaled back its expectations, saying at least $550 billion is now the president's goal.
That amount, Voinovich said, would be fiscally irresponsible.
"Instead of dillying around between $350 billion and $550 billion, let's do the $350 billion and let's get it done," Voinovich said in a televised interview.
Voinovich and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, reached a deal with Senate leaders on the $350 billion limit to the cuts.
Mr. Bush, in his radio address Saturday, took on lawmakers refusing to accept the amount the president says is necessary to revive the economy.
"Since they already agree that tax relief creates jobs, it doesn't make sense to provide less tax relief and, therefore, create fewer jobs," Mr. Bush said.
During a visit last week to Ohio, Mr. Bush renewed his campaign for the bigger tax cuts. Voinovich said Mr. Bush's trip could backfire with Ohio voters, who support the lower tax cut.
"I think the timing of it made it look bad, in terms of his trying to put some pressure on me," Voinovich said. "I don't believe that's what he had in mind, but it certainly has been interpreted that way in our state."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, nailed down the crucial votes from Voinovich and Snowe before the budget's passage by promising to hold the final tax cut compromise to $350 billion.
The deal, also backed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., infuriated House Republicans, who said they were blindsided.
"For the White House the Senate republicans have become like herding cats," Craig Crawford, of Congressional Quarterly, told CBS News. "They are all over the lot, and they've had a hard time keeping them in line."
Grassley said Sunday that Republicans are still looking for ways to offset the cost of additional tax cuts, such as closing corporate tax shelters and extending customs fees. But he said it would be difficult to reach $550 billion.
"We've got a divided government, and we have to operate within the realities of a Senate that is divided 51-49," he said in a televised interview.
Senate rules make passage of major legislation virtually impossible without 60 votes because of parliamentary delays or the filibuster, nonstop debate that can be stopped only by three-fifths of the 100 senators.
Grassley said perhaps Mr. Bush and GOP congressional leaders "will be able to convince Voinovich and Snowe and other people, even hopefully some Democrats, that the economy can really be helped by a much more mammoth tax cut. And it may be much easier and with the president convincing them to go beyond 350, we might really be able to do something really big and good."