WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has disparaged President George W. Bush's tax plan — and may be positioning himself for the 2004 presidential race.
Fox News' Roger Friedman recently reported that Kerry told many party-goers at a pre-Oscar event that he would seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
While the senator dismisses such talk now, he won't discourage talk about a 2004 candidacy. Fox News' Tony Snow asked him earlier this week if he would deny any presidential aspiration.
"Well, I never said that," Kerry responded.
A source close to Kerry says he is "leaving the door open" to the idea of running.
Policy Posturing as Political Posturing
Kerry, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, has attacked the president's tax plan as irresponsible, saying he would prefer a "conservative, thoughtful approach" to tax-cutting. He says the current economic situation makes him question the Bush plan.
"What we're seeing, with respect to the marketplace, [is a] downturn in revenues in our states," Kerry said on Fox News Sunday. "All indicat[ions are] that we're going to have less money to give back than they're currently talking about, so I think we have to be smart."
Kerry says it's too soon to know what sort of budget surplus will be available over the next ten years. During the last presidential campaign, the surplus forecast changed like the weather. One week, the estimated surplus would be $2.2 trillion. Then two weeks later, the figure had jumped to $4.6 trillion. Presently, there is a predicted surplus of $5.6 trillion.
Despite the rising surplus estimates, Kerry isn't counting on that money to be there.
"I'd rather wait until we see what the second quarter does," Kerry said, "before we move into a prolonged tax cut that deprives us of the chance to protect Social Security, to guarantee Medicare and to also invest in education."
He supports the $60 billion Democratic tax-cut plan, which would give $300 back to every individual and $600 to every couple.
"The notion of about a $60 billion return is really, I think, within what we can afford and has an impact on the economy," Kerry said.
Bush and the congressional GOP state that while an immediate tax rebate would be good, taxpayers would need to be able to count on a on lower tax rates across-the-board as a catalyst for economic growth.
Kerry Says Bye, Bayh Tax Trigger
Kerry may face a Democratic threat for the White House in 2004 from Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who is also reported to have presidential aspirations. However, a source close to Bayh says "he hasn't made up his mind" yet.
Bayh's tax-cut proposals include a "trigger" that would adjust cuts should the surplus shrink from original estimates.
Kerry, on the other hand, thinks a trigger is ineffective and unreliable.
This week, the Senate tackles the budget which the House passed, mostly along party lines, last week.