The House of Representatives passed the final piece of $95 billion in tax cuts in early December, in a vote split mostly along party lines.The most recent bill approved $56 billion in tax cuts over the next five years, including a two-year, $20 billion extension of President Bush's 2001 tax cut for stock dividends and capital gains.

The budget that the House passed just before Thanksgiving would cut $51 billion over five years from programs like Medicaid, food stamps, farm subsidies and child-support enforcement. Meanwhile, the version of a budget passed by the Senate would cut taxes by $60 billion over five years, and not extend the tax cut on stock dividends.

The Senate bill also has two provisions that President Bush has opposed: a one-year, $5 billion tax on major oil companies (which he has threatened to veto) and a $5 billion provision that would make it easier to impose high penalties on people who use abusive tax shelters.

The remainder of the House bills were targeted at the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast ($7.1 billion), U.S. troops serving in Iraq ($153 million) and an estimated 17 million taxpayers who were on the verge of having to pay the alternative minimum tax ($31.2 billion). At press-time, the conflict between the House and Senate bills looked unlikely to be resolved before Congress' holiday recess.

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