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Senate battle expected over budget

Senate leaders on Sunday signaled a bitter floor fight this week on President Clinton's federal deficit-cutting plan, with Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan vowing that "we have the majority we need."

"It can be argued that it is the most progressive change in the tax code we have seen since World War II in terms of who pays what," said Moynihan, D-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "We have the majority we need, and we will produce it."

Moynihan was interviewed along with Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., on the CBS Face the Nation program.

Dole charged that the plan was laden with tax increases and short on spending cuts. He said it would result in a deficit cut of $347-billion over five years instead of the more than $500-billion claimed by the Democrats.

Moynihan said the burden of new taxes under the Clinton plan would be chiefly carried by wealthy Americans, but Dole warned that Republicans would push hard for changes when debate begins on the Senate floor this week.

Democrats hold a 56-44 majority in the Senate, and Republicans have said they will vote against the Clinton plan. Some Democratic liberals also are expected to press for changes in Medicare cuts in the plan.

"The problem is . . . it's about three-fourth taxes and very little spending cuts," Dole said. "We will have an alternative on the Senate floor that will either be very limited taxes or no taxes at all and a more balanced deficit reduction package."

Dole said the Republicans could accept some tax increases, including perhaps a surcharge for millionaires, but the plan should not punish successful people.

After spending weeks rounding up the necessary 11 votes to move Clinton's economic plan through the Finance Committee, Democratic leaders must now find 51 votes to approve it on the Senate floor.

The bill was approved by the committee Friday, 11-9 along party lines. Democrats say the proposal, coupled with changes made by other Senate panels, would cut the deficit by $508-billion over five years.

It includes a 4.3-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline and other transportation fuels, increases the personal tax rate for the wealthy, raises the top corporate tax rate and imposes higher levies on some Social Security benefits.

The bill also contains $19-billion in new Medicare cuts, in addition to more than $50-billion in Medicare and Medicaid trims already passed by the House and slices Clinton's proposals to aid the working poor.

Democrats have told the White House they will not be able to hold a House-Senate conference to work out a final bill until after a July Fourth recess.