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A surprising victory for the taxpayer

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted November 26, 2001

The Bush Administration let it be known that the President was not pleased that the Senate left town without passing a stimulus package which has been pending for some time. Speaker of the House Denny Hastert pointed out that the delay caused by the Senate recess means that it will be the end of the year before a stimulus package can be reconciled by both houses of the Congress and signed into law by the President.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle gave the Senate the week off because he didn't have the votes to pass the Democratic bill sponsored by Senator Max Baucus of Montana. That bill passed by a one-vote margin in the Senate Finance Committee. The Republican bill, promoted by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa doesn't have the votes to pass either. A group of moderates, led by Senator John Breaux of Louisiana and Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine are working on their own stimulus bill which just might have the 60 votes needed to pass anything in the U.S. Senate. If so, even though the bill would not contain some of what the President is looking for, it would nevertheless represent a defeat for Daschle.

Hoping against hope that his Democratic bill can generate the required 60 votes, Daschle called time-out. The House passed a stimulus bill which President Bush generally likes. If the Senate can pass a bill which can, after a conference with the House, give the president something he can sign, perhaps this will have some impact on the markets. Leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have told the Congressional leadership that they understand the stimulus bill is not really all that stimulative in its present form but the markets are expecting it so it needs to be passed.

Meanwhile, the Senate has remarkably taken action on a matter which is, frankly, surprising. The Senate took up the House bill and extended the moratorium on Internet taxation for two more years. The House had passed a bill extending the moratorium before it expired. But the Senate, as usual, did nothing at the end of October so the moratorium officially expired. It looked for a time as if the Senate would continue to do nothing. Then the National Taxpayers Union, the Association of Concerned Taxpayers, and others weighed in. So did the Coalition which the Free Congress Foundation had put together representing hundreds of groups across the nation.

Lisa Dean, the Vice President for Technology Policy of the Free Congress Foundation, said, "Despite the economic conditions in the USA, the Senate surprisingly understands the value of doing business on-line tax-free. I am glad the Senate is willing to let businesses and consumers keep money which would otherwise go to government."

Eric Schlect, the Director of Congressional Relations for the National Taxpayers Union, said the NTU would have preferred a permanent ban on Interstate taxation but is grateful for the two-year extension nevertheless. Schlect said NTU is pleased that the Internet is being permitted to grow without being weighed down by heavy regulating and tax burdens. Schlect said, "The issue is far too complex for Washington to rush into a new system of taxation which could be disastrous to our already reeling economy and detrimental to our already suffering taxpayers."

Both Dean and Schlect pointed out that those who would have suffered the most had this moratorium not been enacted would have been the Mom and Pop small businesses who would have suffocated under the mandate of over 30,000 taxing entities in the 50 states.

This is a surprising victory for the taxpayer. It demonstrates once again that when grass roots America makes itself felt, there will likely be positive results. The National Taxpayers Union has over 350,000 members. The coalition Dean has built is approaching 1,000 groups which collectively represent hundreds of thousands of unduplicated members. The people pounded away. Isn't it comforting to know that despite September 11th, and all the new restrictions which have been enacted to modify our behavior, ordinary people can still have a positive impact on the political process?

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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