The New York Times
WASHINGTON, June 25 -- The top two Congressional Democrats, along with most of the House Democratic caucus, demanded today that President Bush intervene to deliver an increased child tax credit for low-income families this month, but Republican officials said a decision on credits would have to wait for weeks, if not longer.
Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, sent a letter to the White House today criticizing Republicans for not working out the differences in two bills that would provide the credit to 6.5 million minimum-wage families who did not receive it in the tax cut law enacted last month. If Congress does not act now, they said, the families would probably not receive checks until school begins in the fall, if they would receive them at all.
The 25 million middle-class families who were covered under the tax cut law will receive the $400-a-child checks beginning July 25.
''Mr. President, your leadership is critical to preventing this from happening,'' the two Democrats wrote. ''Therefore, we call on you to urge Republican leadership to convene a conference committee for immediate consideration of this bill. Every day they delay is another day these families must wait.''
A similar letter to the White House was signed by 160 of the 205 House Democrats. The group, organized by Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the minority whip, said the president was the only one who could persuade reluctant Republicans to approve the credit.
''We regard it as simply unconscionable to deny this tax credit to these families while providing it to their slightly better-off neighbors,'' the letter from the House stated.
Republican leaders said that because of the press of Medicare legislation, House and Senate conferees could not meet to discuss the tax credits until next month, after the July 4 recess. A spokesman for Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said Republicans were not trying to delay an agreement.
In holding a news conference on the subject while the rest of Capitol Hill is consumed with the debate on Medicare, the two Democratic leaders signaled their intention to keep the tax credit issue alive beyond next week's recess, using it to illustrate what they say is the Republican Party's obeisance to the wealthy. Aides to the two leaders handed out mock checks designed to look like government tax refunds, but made out to ''working American families'' in the amount of zero dollars.
At the same time, House Democrats kept up the drumbeat by introducing a series of amendments that would trim the administration's tax breaks for millionaires and use the revenue for education and health care programs. The proposals are routinely defeated, but allow the Democrats to claim a demonstration of Republican priorities.
Republicans, on the other hand, say that the criticism is an example of Democratic class-warfare tactics and that Democrats want to raise taxes to finance more government programs.
Claire E. Buchan, a White House spokeswoman, said the president's position in favor of the tax credits remained unchanged.
''His views are very well known,'' Ms. Buchan said. ''He believes that low-income families should get tax relief and quickly, and has urged Congress to act to resolve the issue. He's hopeful they'll do so.''
Treasury officials say that even if Congress acted immediately, credit refund checks would not go out to families earning $10,500 to $26,650 until mid-September at the earliest. But Mr. Daschle said a vote now would at least afford a promise that the checks were coming.
''If these people are aware that they will be entitled to it, I think they can make plans,'' he said. ''They may not get the check, but if we can say the check's in the mail, I think that would be a much better situation than what we're facing right now.''