Until several days ago President Bush refused to budge on the 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut plan he got through the House. But in the 50-50 divided upper chamber, Georgia U.S. Sen. Zell Miller was the only Democrat to back the president while two Northeast GOP senators deserted him to support a $1.2 trillion tax cut package backed by centrist Democrats.
Sadly, this made Democrat centrists the pivotal players in the tax cut game - forcing the president into conceding he'll have to settle for a compromise that's something less than what he's been asking for since he got his campaign underway last year. He still hopes he can edge the final cuts closer to where he and the House are than to where the Senate is.
The president will also have a fight on his hands to get the lower tax rate structure he wants. There's strong resistance to lowering rates for "the rich," even though the top 10 percent of income groups pay 65 percent of the taxes. Many Democrats see the tax code as a vehicle for income redistribution instead of as a burden on income earners and producers.
However, there is a consensus that more of the tax cuts should be front-loaded, that is implemented this year instead of future years - a recognition that the struggling economy needs a fiscal stimulus now.
No one who favors tax cuts can be pleased that Bush has to compromise even a little, but look how far he's come. All last year, and even after his controversial election victory, liberal know-it-alls in the elite media guffawed at the very notion of a trillion dollar-plus tax cut. It would never happen.
Well, it is happening. Even the Senate's $1.2 trillion tax cut bill is larger than anything the smart-alec pundits could have imagined a year ago. Those same smart alecs are now weighing in with their assessments of the new president's first 100 days.
No doubt they're off the mark there, too, though the public gives Bush pretty good grades - ranging from a 56 to 63 percent approval rating in the polls. That's better than his predecessor's score after the first 100 days.