Amid strong opposition from President Clinton, a House panel pushed ahead Wednesday with a 10-year, $182-billion Republican bill that could cut income taxes for millions of married couples.
The party-line vote by the House Ways and Means Committee cleared the bill for a floor vote as early as next week.
The action came after Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told House leaders that Clinton would not support the measure, even though the president is also proposing relief from the so-called "marriage penalty."
About 25-million couples, most of them with dual incomes, pay more income taxes than they would if single. Millions more couples in which one spouse is the main breadwinner get a marriage bonus through current tax law _ the GOP bill would cut taxes for all of them.
At an estimated cost of $182.3-billion over 10 years, the Republican bill would consume about 10 percent of the projected budget surplus not dedicated to Social Security, according to congressional estimates.
Much of the cost comes from gradual enlargement, from 2003 to 2008, of the bottom 15 percent tax bracket so that it applies to more income for married couples.
If that were in effect today, married couples would pay the 15 percent rate on their first $52,500 of taxable income, instead of $43,850.
In addition, the GOP bill would increase the standard deduction for joint tax filers to double that of single filers beginning in 2001 and expand the earned-income tax credit for lower-income married people.
Clinton's proposal, estimated at $45-billion over 10 years, includes similar provisions to boost the standard deduction and on the earned-income credit _ both geared more toward people with modest incomes _ but does not adjust the 15 percent bracket, which generally would help higher-income couples.