WASHINGTON

Tax relief package rushed through Congress

Congress yesterday rushed to pass a $145.9 billion package of
tax relief that would extend three popular middle class tax cuts
and hand President Bush his fourth major tax victory since taking
office.

The House began debate on the package with Senate leaders
promising to take up the measure as soon as it won House
passage.

Republicans who control Congress were anxious to pass the
legislation needed to extend the popular tax measures and give the
president a big legislative victory in the closing weeks of his
campaign for re-election.

Without action, the three provisions affecting an estimated 94
million Americans would expire at the end of this year.

The legislation keeps the per child tax credit at $1,000,
retains an expanded 10 percent income bracket that affects
virtually all taxpayers and retains provisions to provide tax
relief for married couples.

“The choice is between raising taxes on millions of
families and individuals next year or sparing them that tax
increase,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles
Grassley (R-Iowa). “The president made this a priority and I
hope to have a bill on his desk within days.”

 

Court may lose authority in pledge cases

The House passed a bill yesterday that would prevent the Supreme
Court from ruling on whether the words “under God”
should be stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance.

In a politically and emotionally charged debate, Democrats said
majority Republicans in the chamber were debasing the Constitution
in order to force a vote that could hurt Democrats in the
election.

Supporters insisted that Congress has always had authority to
limit federal court jurisdiction, and the legislation is needed to
protect an affirmation of religion that is part of the national
heritage.

The bill, which was passed 247 to 173, would prohibit federal
courts, including the Supreme Court, from hearing cases involving
the pledge and its recitation and would prevent federal courts from
striking the words “under God” from the pledge.

 

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Gunmen kill three Israeli soldiers in shootout

Palestinian gunmen made their way into a heavily fortified
Israeli army post in the Gaza Strip under cover of morning fog
Yesterday and started shooting, killing three Israeli soldiers in a
45-minute firefight.

Two attackers were killed soon afterward, but a third hid near
the post for several hours before firing on journalists inspecting
the scene, wounding an Israeli newspaper reporter in the leg.

The infiltration came as Israeli forces wrapped up an operation
in a nearby Gaza refugee camp amid signs of increasing tensions and
violence ahead of Israel’s planned withdrawal from Gaza next
year.

Taking advantage of heavy fog, Palestinian gunmen slipped
unnoticed into the post at about 6 a.m. and opened fire, killing an
Israeli officer and two soldiers and critically wounding another
soldier, the military said.

 

Flu shot usage not sufficiently widespread

Of the Americans who most need a flu shot, fewer than half
actually get one, federal health officials warned yesterday as they
called for special attention to babies, toddlers and the elderly as
vaccinations begin next month.

A record 100 million doses of flu vaccine will be available this
year, the vast majority of it shipped to doctors’ offices by
the end of October, said Keiji Fukuda of the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.

That assurance comes several months after one major supplier,
Chiron Corp., delayed its shipments because a small amount of
vaccine failed sterility testing, suggesting contamination. That
was “a precautionary move,” and close monitoring so far
suggests the rest of Chiron’s supply is fine, Fukuda
said.

 

— Compiled from Daily wire reports

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