WASHINGTON – President Bush locked up support from Sen. George Voinovich for his first batch of tax cuts in 2001 with a visit to Ohio. Now, he's trying the same pressure tactic to get the Ohio Republican's support for tax cuts of $550 billion over 10 years.
Voinovich and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine have refused to support tax reductions of more than $350 billion. Together with Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and John McCain of Arizona, who oppose any tax cuts, they have blocked Bush from getting his full tax package.
On Thursday, Bush plans to visit Canton, Ohio, and the Lima Army Tank Plant operated by General Dynamics Corp. to promote his tax-cut proposals and talk about the war in Iraq.
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the visit — Bush's ninth to Ohio since taking office — is not an attempt to pressure Voinovich, though senior White House officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that's exactly what the trip is about.
A spokesman from Voinovich's office said the senator doesn't feel pressured. Voinovich is planning to welcome Bush to Ohio and meet with him briefly after he lands at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, spokesman Scott Milburn said.
"It can only be called 'pressure' if the people back home don't support him or if the president has a snowball's chance in hell getting him to change his position," Milburn said.
Ohio's three largest newspapers have written editorials praising Voinovich for wanting the Bush administration to rein in federal spending and pay down the federal debt before passing a large tax cut.
The former Ohio governor has had a series of meetings with top Bush administration officials over his position on the tax cuts.
"He has been consistent from the beginning and it's not going to change," Milburn said.
Voinovich, who was undecided at the time of Bush's February 2001 visit, decided a week after the visit to support the president's $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal.
That decision was made at a time that the country had a budget surplus, Milburn said, and required $2 trillion over two years for deficit reduction and limited spending growth at 4 percent.