WASHINGTON – As the Senate Finance Committee returns to the negotiating table Tuesday to sort out a technicality that delayed debate on the tax cut bill, most Senate votes have been decided already on party lines.
That hasn't stopped President Bush from taking those final hours to barnstorm, traveling to three states to put pressure on some Democratic senators to back the biggest tax cut possible.
Bush began in New Mexico on Monday targeting Sen. Jeff Bingaman, an expected "no" vote.
"I hope you join me in raising your voices to make sure that Congress enacts an economic stimulus plan big enough to help people who are looking for work," Bush told a group of business owners outside Albuquerque.
Bush also visited Nebraska to turn the heat up on Sen. Ben Nelson, who has said he might vote for a larger tax cut but only if he is not the deciding vote. The president delivered his third plea in Indiana on Tuesday, where he drew one of his largest crowds ever. One of the state's two senators is Democrat Evan Bayh, a first-term centrist up for re-election next year.
Senate passage of a tax cut is all but certain, though it looks to pass by a slim 51-49 margin, largely on straight party lines.
So far, only two Democrats plan to support the Senate tax cut. However, two Republicans plan to vote no -- Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Arizona's John McCain, both of whom also opposed the Bush tax cuts in 2001.
The two Democrats backing the Senate tax cut are Georgia's one-term and retiring Sen. Zell Miller, a staunch Bush backer, and Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln, also up for re-election in 2004. Lincoln announced her support last week, shortly after the president visited her state.
The House has passed a $550 billion tax relief package. The Senate version is $350 billion with an additional $20 billion in aid to cash-strapped states and $71 billion in additional tax cuts that will be offset by other corresponding tax and fee hikes to cover the cost.
On Monday, debate was delayed when Senate Democrats blocked floor discussion with a procedural move. Senators on the Finance Committee apparently violated rules of debate by agreeing to a substitute rather than the original bill. Rather than allowing a unanimous consent vote to accept the substitute, Democrats forced Finance Committee members to make technical changes that have delayed debate until Wednesday.
The president wants Democratic votes so he can call the tax cut bipartisan, but opponents say it is too costly and will increase the federal debt. The Congressional Budget Office now says this year's deficit will exceed $300 billion. The president argues some things are more important than deficits.
"I'm worried about the deficit, but I am more worried about the fellow looking for work. I'm worried about the deficit, but I am more worried about the single mom who's worried about putting food on the table for her children," Bush said.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.