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Saturday, November 20, 2004


Via The Daou Report, I see that those wacky Republicans are boldly trying to stick their noses into people's private business again. According to kd4dean over on Kos the Republicans tried to slip in another provision into the spending bill that would have allowed acouple of committee chairmen or their henchmen access to any American's tax returns for any reason. Somebody noticed.

"This is a serious situation," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. "Neither of us were aware that this had been inserted in this bill," he said, referring to himself and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Florida.

Questioned sharply by fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, Stevens pleaded with the Senate to approve the overall spending bill despite the tax returns language.

But Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, said that wasn't good enough. "It becomes the law of the land on the signature of the president of the United States. That's wrong."

Conrad said the measure's presence in the spending bill was symptomatic of a broader problem -- Congress writing legislation hundreds of pages long and then giving lawmakers only a few hours to review it before having to vote on it.

Stevens, who repeatedly apologized for what he characterized as an error, took offense at Conrad's statement. "It's contrary to anything that I have seen happen in more than 30 years on this committee," he said.

Pounding on his desk, Stevens said he had given his word and so had Young that neither would use the authority to require the IRS to turn over individual or corporate tax returns to them. "I would hope that the Senate would take my word. I don't think I have ever broken my word to any member of the Senate."

"... Do I have to get down on my knees and beg," he said.

Both Young and Stevens will cede their chairmanships when the new Congress elected earlier this month takes office in January.

Some Democrats didn't accept the assertion that the provision was a mistake and demanded an investigation.

"We weren't born yesterday, we didn't come down with the first snow," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. "This isn't poorly thought out, this was very deliberately thought out and it was done in the dead of night."

Members of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee now have limited access to tax returns, but there are severe criminal and civil penalties if the information is disclosed or misused.

Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the measure will "bring us back to the doorstep to the days of President Nixon, President Truman and other dark days in our history when taxpayer information was used against political enemies."

We crossed that threshold some time ago, I'm afraid.

I do enjoy the fact that the guy who made the "error" was offended that nobody would take his word. That's what happens when your leadership tells people to go fuck themselves over and over again, Ted. It tends to erode trust.