Anti-tax Constitutional amendment fails in House

WASHINGTON (AP) — By a decisive margin, the House failed to pass a proposed Constitutional amendment which would make it harder for Congress to raise taxes.
The amendment, which would require a two-thirds vote of Congress for any tax increases, mustered 233 votes in favor to 190 against, 49 votes short of the two-thirds majority also needed to advance a change to the Constitution.
It was the second year the House failed to pass the bill on the tax filing deadline day. And last year it fell only 37 votes short. But the GOP used the lengthy floor debate to emphasize its tax-changing agenda and its differences with the White House.
“Down at the other end of Pennsylvania (Avenue) they seem to be committed to raising taxes, to taking more of your pay and to having more of your money to spend through the bureaucracy,” said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
Defeat of the tax limitation amendment came after the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed measures making it a crime for IRS workers to snoop through tax returns.
Democrats denounced the amendment as a “gimmick” timed solely for media coverage on the tax deadline day and said it would severely damage the budget process.
Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass., observed that the amendment was being debated even though the GOP was routinely waiving a similar requirement made in House rules two years ago that requires a three-fifths vote for any measure containing a federal income tax rate increase.
The GOP has waived the rule several times as legislation has gone to the floor on Medicare premiums, earned income tax credits, small business tax breaks and other politically sensitive issues, he said.
Republicans countered that core principles were at stake.
“This isn’t only about keeping a lid on the taxes that American people pay, it’s about shrinking the size and power of the federal government,” said Rep. Thomas DeLay, R-Texas, the House majority whip.
“It will require Congress to focus on options other than raising taxes to balance the budget,” said House Rules Committee Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y.
Supporters of the constitutional amendment said 14 states now require a supermajority vote to raise taxes. The conservative Heritage Foundation said these states have been able to limit the growth of government and have enjoyed a more rapid pace of economic growth and job creation.
Not all of the tax reform debate was confined to the Capitol. In Boston, five Republican congressmen engaged in a modern-day re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party by tossing the U.S. Tax Code into Boston Harbor.
“It’s time to dump an income tax code that has dumped on us too long,” said Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La.
In Lafayette Park opposite the White House, about 40 people gathered for a “Taxpayer Day of Outrage Rally” to call for tax reform and tax cuts. Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson was there, as was someone dressed like the grim reaper.
Aside from the photo opportunities, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, hinted at progress on budget talks following a recent meeting with White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.
“I don’t see a reluctance by Erskine to include a good-sized tax package,” Armey said.
Meanwhile, Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said they intend to focus on three major tax issues this year: reducing capital gains and estate taxes and passing a $500 per child tax credit for families.