WHEN the United States House of Representatives returns to work next week, the first item on its agenda will be reconciling the coming year's budget with what it thus far plans to spend, says House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D) of Washington. A pending reconciliation bill, the vehicle for such action, includes several issues that Speaker Foley foresees the House also considering this year: Child-care proposals.
Catastrophic health-care premiums.
So-called ``Section 89'' regulations that govern health insurance offered by businesses.
Ethics and campaign finance reform.
One item that Congress won't unilaterally put on its agenda is new taxes, Speaker Foley said at a Monitor breakfast meeting with reporters. It won't, unless President Bush strongly presses for them, he added.
``There will be no new taxes of any significant new kind without the open public, and eager efforts of the president to bring them about,'' said Foley. This appears to be the view of most political observers as well.
The Speaker cited two related reasons:
Congress does not have the votes to override a presidential veto of a bill to raise taxes. Lowering taxes is widely popular, as Foley noted, but raising taxes isn't so popular.
More fundamentally, a Democratic majority in Congress is not willing - nor is Foley - to take the lead in pushing for higher taxes. The president may then reluctantly sign a tax bill and Republican congressional candidates in the next election would excoriate Democrats for hiking taxes.
When Speaker Foley looks at Congress's agenda for the coming weeks he is particularly impassioned about his objections to proposals, pushed by the Bush administration and pending in Congress, to lower the rate of the capital gains tax.
``I'm troubled by the fact that the capital gains tax [reduction] provides the opportunity,'' if enacted, for affluent Americans to pay taxes ``at a substantially lower rate'' than is paid by people ``of modest income,'' Speaker Foley said.