As President Bush returned from a weekend at Camp David, Democrats said his tax cut plan is going nowhere.
"I think that President Bush's tax plan is dead in the Senate and it has died of its own weight. It is too large and therefore fiscally irresponsible," Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) said on ABCNEWS' This Week on Sunday.
He was echoed by Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who also said the plan was unlikely to become law.
"I think we have the votes today to stop the $2.5 trillion tax cut the president is proposing," said Daschle.
But political analyst Stu Rothenberg said to hold off on the obituaries.
“A tax cut remains alive," he said. "I think the Bush plan was really a negotiating point. A strategic decision about where to start knowing that ultimately the president would have to compromise with Democrats and even moderate republicans in the Senate.”
Both Sides Battle for Public Support
The Democrats' new confidence is bolstered by a Newsweek poll showing that, despite the president's efforts to sell the country on his tax proposal, over the last five weeks public support for the Bush tax cut has dropped from 67 to 55 percent.
The president's plan calls for across the board cuts in income tax rates, larger credits for taxpayers with children, and a gradual elimination of the estate tax.
Senators from both sides of the aisle have made proposals to change the president's tax cut. Some want to shrink the overall package, while giving more tax relief to middle-income families. Others want to cut capital gains taxes.
"I don't know anybody in Washington, and that includes in the White House, that really expected a $1.6 trillion tax cut to emerge unscathed," said Rothenberg.
With the economy soft and the stock market sliding, many senators are looking for ways to get money to taxpayers right away.
"We need to put more up front, and I think the president has indicated a willingness to do that," said Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.).
Open to Modification
Until recently, White House officials refused to entertain any changes to the president's tax cut, but they now say he is open to modifications in the plan as long as its basic elements remain in place.
Mitch Daniels, director of Bush's Office of Management and Budget, said on This Week that the plan was open to a certain amount of modification.
“I think it will have the votes and we’ve been talking to people who have a few questions and would like to see here and there some touch-ups or modifications and the president’s indicated a willingness to do that. “
He also said there was a trend among the Democrat opponents of the plan.
“Our opponents, who at one point said, ‘No, never, under no circumstances,’ keep coming closer and closer and closer to the president’s point of view.”