Taxing Times


April 15th is Tax Day which means it's as good a day as any to chart the distance John McCain has traveled on taxes.

Back in 2001, McCain voted against President Bush's $1.35 trillion 10-year tax cut, saying, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief."

Two years later, McCain voted against further Bush tax cuts, saying the costs of the Iraq war were not yet known.

McCain now supports extending the Bush tax cuts, saying that to do otherwise would be to tantamount to supporting a tax increase.

After crossing swords with Grover Norquist earlier this decade, McCain now finds himself in the good graces of the anti-tax activist who heads the conservative Americans for Tax Reform (A.T.R.).

"Why am I happy on taxes?" Norquist told ABC News. "Because he has endorsed and put out the four tax cuts that A.T.R. considers the key ones: expensing, cutting the corporate [tax] rate, extending the 2001 and 2003 [Bush] tax cuts, and getting rid of the A.M.T. [Alternative Minimum Tax]."

"And he has said three times on national T.V., 'I'll veto any tax increase, end of conversation,'" added Norquist.

Even though the Democrats have not yet settled on a presidential nominee, the liberal Center for American Progress (C.A.P.) recently previewed the party's eventual line of attack on taxes.

John McCain is offering "much less for the middle class than Bush," said Robert Gordon, a senior fellow with C.A.P.

Although a large portion of Bush's tax proposals were geared towards upper-income voters, Gordon argued that Bush was able to cast his plan during the 2000 campaign as benefiting the middle class by discussing the marriage penalty and his desire to expand child tax relief.

Norquist responded to the charge that McCain is offering less to the middle class than Bush by saying, "You can't slam him for wanting to continue the non-progressive 2003 bill if you don't give him credit for extending . . . the tax cuts that are weighed more heavily on a percentage basis to low-income people."

"They're being rather selective when they do that," he added.

Tuesday's tax plans:

On Tuesday, McCain delivers 9:45 am ET remarks on the economy.

To amplify the GOP's tax message, the RNC did a Monday call with GOP surrogates and is planning a research piece on the Democrats for Tuesday morning.

For his part, Norquist holds his annual Tax Day press conference at the National Press Club at 9:30 am ET.

As for the Democrats, both presidential contenders will appear in Washington, D.C.

Hillary Clinton gets her turn speaking to the AP's annual meeting at 1:30 pm ET while Barack Obama speaks to the Building Trades Legislative Conference.

The DNC signaled on Monday that it will use Tax Day to pressure John (and Cindy) McCain to release their tax returns.

"When will McCain release his tax returns?" asked the DNC's Damien LaVera in a missive to reporters. "Despite claiming to be an advocate for openness in government, McCain has never released his tax returns in his 25 years in Washington."

PA poll numbers coming:

Qunnipiac is set to release a poll of likely Democratic Pennsylvania primary voters on Tuesday at 11:00 am ET.

The poll could measure some of the fallout from Barack Obama's "bitter" remark but it may not measure the full fallout.

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