Rules change clears way for tax in­creases

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Don­ald Lam­bro

One of the first key pro­ce­dural votes in the Demo­crat-con­trolled House es­tab­lished leg­isla­tive rules that Repub­li­cans say will make it eas­ier to raise taxes by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote.

The straight party-line vote re­ceived lit­tle at­ten­tion on Jan. 4 as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, was elected speaker of the House. But Repub­li­can lead­ers and con­ser­va­tive tax-cut ad­vo­cates said it opened up a huge loophole in a Repub­li­can-im­posed rule drawn from the Repub­li­cans’ 1994 Con­tract with Amer­ica, which re­quires a su­per­ma­jor­ity, or three-fifths vote, to raise taxes.

Democrats unan­i­mously voted down a mo­tion of­fered by Mi­nor­ity Lead­erJohnA.BoehnerofOhio­that would have pre­vented them from waiv­ingtherule,amovethat­tax-cut­ters said sig­naled the Democrats’ in­ten­tion­toraise­tax­es­be­tween­now and the 2008 elec­tions.

“Amer­i­can­tax­pay­er­sneed­to­hold on to their wal­lets be­cause the new House rules con­cern­ing taxes are not worth the pa­per they’re writ­ten on,” said Grover Norquist, pres­i­dent ofAmer­i­cans­forTaxRe­form(ATR).

“Af­ter spend­ing an en­tire year on the cam­paign trail claim­ing she will not raise taxes, the first vote Nancy Pelosi brings to the floor for a vote as speaker will open the door to bil­lions and bil­lions of dol­lars of tax in­creases over the next two years,” Mr. Norquist said.

Many lib­eral Democrats vowed in the midterm elec­tion cam­paigns to re­peal the Bush tax cuts for those in the top in­come-tax brack­ets, and party lead­ers al­ready have sched­uled a vote to elim­i­nate tax breaks for oil com­pa­nies, which would ef­fec­tively raise taxes on the na­tion’s en­er­gypro­duc­ing cor­po­ra­tions.

“The Democrats have a more es­tab­lished record of want­ing to raise taxes than Repub­li­cans do. So to have them re­ject mak­ing the rule un­waiv­able in­di­cates they want to pre­serve the op­tion to raise taxes,” said Jo Maney, spokes­woman for the Rules Com­mit­tee, through which all leg­is­la­tion must pass.

“The Democrats were smart in craft­ing the new rules,” said Dan Clifton, ATR’s chief econ­o­mist. “They did not change them but made ad­di­tions to them. Now the three-fifths rule can be waived by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity,” or 218 votes.

“Pres­i­dent Clin­ton got a bare ma­jor­ity 218 votes for his tax in­creases in 1993. So all the Democrats have to do is vote to waive the three-fifths rule, and they’ve got a tax in­crease,” Mr. Clifton said.

Demo­cratic of­fi­cials saw Mr. Boehner’s mo­tion as a move to tie their hands on fu­ture tax pol­icy, and the ma­jor­ity lead­er­ship ef­fec­tively held all of its troops in line to op­pose it, even though some of its mem­bers ran on pledges not to raise taxes.

“In the com­ing months, the Demo­crat-con­trolled Rules Com­mit­tee will be pres­sured to re­peal or waive the Con­tract with Amer­ica’s bar­ri­ers against un­fair tax in­creases to make it eas­ier for the Demo­crat ma­jor­ity in Congress to raise taxes,” Mr. Boehner pre­dicted.

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