Md. majority votes to support Democrats' plan


WASHINGTON -- A majority of the Maryland delegation in the House endorsed the Democratic deficit-reduction package last night, with some saying that the plan to raise income taxes on the wealthy and reduce Medicare premium increases was the most fair.

Representatives Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd; Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th; Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th; Beverly B. Byron, D-Md.-6th; Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.-7th; and Constance A. Morella, R-Md.-8th, voted for the plan, which President Bush threatened to veto.

Representatives Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, and Roy P. Dyson, D-Md.-1st, voted against the measure.

Mr. Cardin, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said the package addressed the "two major problems" of the original budget accord crafted by the president and congressional leaders but defeated in the House: It softens increases in Medicare premiums and places a greater tax burden on the wealthy.

"It is real deficit reduction," said Mr. Cardin.

"Obviously the fact that it raises taxes and reduces spending is unpopular."

But those tax increases brought a sharp reaction from Mrs. Bentley, who has voted against the two previous budget accords because they contained tax increases. She dismissed the Democrats' contentions that the new package targets the rich.

"Come on fellows -- who drinks beer and smokes cigarettes? The Republican rich? Horsefeathers!" said Mrs. Bentley, who said her constituents "don't want additional taxes."

"The Republican Party has resisted every attempt to make the wealthy pay their fair share," countered Mr. Mfume.

Mr. Dyson said through a spokesman last night that he opposed the measure because of cuts the plan would make in the Medicare program.

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