The do-little Congress outdid itself Tuesday as Democrats and Republicans turned Capitol Hill into a frenzied tax day bazaar, using the occasion to bash the Internal Revenue Service - and one another - while promoting “reforms” ranging from abolition of the IRS to an array of tax cuts.
One of the day’s more unusual proposals would move the tax filing deadline from April 15 to Election Day - to strengthen the link between the act of voting and its consequences, said its sponsor, Sen. Spencer Abraham, R-Mich.
Even as the high jinks began unfolding in Washington, a four-member congressional delegation flew to Boston (at public expense, of course) to re-enact the Tea Party, although it was the U.S. Tax Code and not tea they heaved into the harbor while vowing to replace the federal income tax with a 15 percent national sales tax.
But not all the day’s events bordered on the inane.
As some 150 tax-haters, including one dressed as the Grim Reaper, rallied on the West Terrace of the Capitol, egged on by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, the House and Senate passed legislation to make it a crime for IRS employees to snoop on citizens.
And two congressional panels held hearings to highlight the issue of the day.
Appearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, Armey renewed his call for a flat tax, which he said would result in greater fairness and prosperity.
The second hearing was convened by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., to highlight the illegal browsing of taxpayers’ confidential files by IRS employees.
The “Taxpayer Browsing Protection Act” passed the Senate by a vote of 97-0 and flew through the House 412-0. It calls for a fine up to $1,000 and/or a year behind bars.
Although Gingrich recently called for the abolition of taxes on capital gains and estates, he said Tuesday the GOP now has lowered expectations. The party’s priorities are cutting the capital gains tax rate; raising the threshold at which estates are taxed; and enacting a $500-per-child tax credit for families, he said.
Democrats, who are not especially known for their tax-cutting fervor, were focused more on criticizing Republicans for missing the April 15 deadline for passing a budget resolution, as required by law.
Senate Minority Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., harped on that theme in his daily news conference, saying that Democrats were unleashing bloodhounds to roam the Hill in search of the phantom Republican budget.
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