President Bush began the year 2003 looking for a new tax cut worth $750 billion. He did not get that, but by starting with a big idea , Bush has apparently succeeded in getting about half the loaf.
The U.S. Senate, under Republican control but still the hostage of a few weak moderates, finally decided to pass a tax cut which, although it weighs in at only $350 billion, has some provisions that will create incentives for investment, business expansion, and homeownership.
The tax cut is also significant because along with Bushs $1.3 trillion 2001 tax cut, it amounts to roughly the $1.7 trillion tax cut Bush originally campaigned on in 2000.
Meanwhile, the House passed legislation that will make it harder for environmentalists to block fire prevention measures in national forests. Although the American West was ravaged by forest fires last year, 12 Republicans, 157 Democrats and one Independent proved to be so thoroughly owned by the radical environmentalist lobby that they still opposed the measure. It is telling that of those 12 Republicans, eight hail from the East Coast states of Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Only two of them-libertarian Ron Paul (R.-Tex.), who votes “no” on almost all legislation, and Rep. Jim Leach (R.-Iowa)-are from west of the Mississippi.
Senate Keeps Dividend Tax Cut, Shrinks Reduction Timeline
On May 15, by a 50-to-50 vote, with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Dick Cheney, the Senate adopted an amendment by Sen. Don Nickles (R.-Okla.) that allowed the elimination of the dividend tax to stay in the tax bill.
The amendment kept the total dollar amount in the tax cut at the $350-billion upper limit demanded by some Republican moderates, but it did so by shrinking the tax cuts duration, rather than by diminishing its immediate effect.
Under this legislation, only half of a taxpayers stock dividend income would be taxed next year, and then the tax would be completely eliminated the following year. However, the provision would sunset after 2006, at which point it would have to be renewed. Another provision of the amendment, which would last until 2009, allows businesses to expense the first $100,000 of capital investments they make each year, up from the current $25,000.
The overall tax cut legislation, rather than becoming permanent law, will eventually expire because it is a so-called “budget reconciliation” bill. Although this method makes the tax cut temporary, it also makes it immune to a likely Democratic filibuster in the Senate.
In addition to the overall expiration date for the bill, which comes in ten years, the tax cut provisions also have their own expiration dates which were added in order to hold down the so-called “cost” to the government of cutting taxes. By Friday, May 22, it looked as though this Senate provision would be replaced by a House provision lowering the tax on dividends to 15%
Nickles argued that his amendment “would accomplish the Presidents objective of eliminating double taxation of dividends. We tax dividends higher than any other country in the world,” he said.
The amendment, he added, “would encourage investment; it would encourage jobs; it would encourage growth.”
Sen. Max Baucus (D.-Mont.), the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, was having none of it. “Americans are subsidizing this,” he said. “Americans today who otherwise would receive the relief under the marriage penalty contained in this bill are going to be subsidizing and paying for, in effect, these tax-free dividends.”
Baucus was obviously speaking of the dividend tax elimination, but he could have just as easily have been referring to the social spending that he and his Democratic colleagues routinely favor and vigorously defend.
He did not explain why Congress cannot enact both forms of tax relief.
The passage of this amendment was a huge victory for the conservative budget chairman Nickles, who watched liberal Republicans steamroll his attempts to keep spending down and increase the size of new tax cuts earlier this year.
The narrow success hinged entirely on a crossover by moderate Sen. Ben Nelson (D.-Neb.).
A “yes” vote was a vote to phase out the federal tax on dividends entirely over two years. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment.
REPUBLICANS FOR (48): Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Campbell, Chambliss, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Fitzgerald, Frist, Graham (S.C.), Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, McConnell, Murkowski, Nickles, Roberts, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Specter, Stevens, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, Voinovich and Warner.
DEMOCRATS FOR (2): Miller and Nelson (Neb.).
REPUBLICANS AGAINST (3): Chafee, McCain and Snowe.
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (46): Akaka, Baucus, Bayh, Biden, Bingaman, Boxer, Breaux, Byrd, Cantwell, Carper, Clinton, Conrad, Corzine, Daschle, Dayton, Dodd, Dorgan, Durbin, Edwards, Feingold, Feinstein, Graham (Fla.), Harkin, Hollings, Inouye, Johnson, Kennedy, Kerry, Kohl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Leahy, Levin, Lieberman, Lincoln, Mikulski, Murray, Nelson (Fla.), Pryor, Reed (R.I.), Reid (Nev.), Rockefeller, Sarbanes, Schumer, Stabenow, and Wyden.
INDEPENDENT AGAINST (1): Jeffords.
Tie-Breaking Vote VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Voted for the amendment.
House Passes Forest Fire Prevention Bill
On May 20, by a vote of 256 to 170, the House passed the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.
Supporters claimed that this bill will prevent massive, catastrophic forest fires by allowing private companies to cut down the harmful forest underbrush that makes massive fires more likely. The amendment would make it easier for them to do so by making it harder for environmental extremists to sue the government and block fire prevention efforts.
“The Forest Service has spent a quarter of a trillion dollars of their time and their financial resources to stop these projects because of lawsuits” by environmentalists, said Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R.-Ariz.).
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R.-Va.)explained that by cutting back on obstacles to forest thinning, “We mean the kind of fire that consumes the entire forest, shoots flames into the air hundreds of feet and takes out entire, huge trees.”
Still, so strong is the environmental extremist lobby in Congress that Goodlatte seemed to feel a need to apologize for his proposal.
“We are proposing to treat less than one in six of the acres on federal lands using the streamlined procedures authorized in the underlying bill,” he said. “This is not a massive logging bill. This is perhaps an under action to the magnitude of the problem we have on our public lands.”
Environmental extremists have generally opposed fire prevention measures for a variety of reasons. They usually have been against any forest-clearing activity if it involves someones making a profit, even if it also saves thousands of lives and millions of dollars in property damages such as those caused by the huge fires that hit Colorado, Oregon and Arizona last summer. many Americans may find it hard to accept this view, , but it is the view commonly expressed on the websites of environmental groups. For example, the website for the group Earth Justice states that H.R.1904 “is supposedly about preventing forest fires, but in fact is designed to increase logging on our national forests by bypassing environmental and public participation laws.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.) argued that the bill “essentially offers a carte blanche for timber companies to log in remote forests.”
Democrats also argued on the House floor that taxpayers should foot the enormous bill for thinning American forests, instead of letting private companies take the risk and try to make a profit by thinning them and selling the timber they recover.
The bill “does not provide the money that is necessary to do the job,” said Rep. Jay Inslee (D.-Wash.).
Environmental extremists may have been complicit in allowing millions of acres to burn last summer. , but some of them even said that they would not support any solution to the massively destructive forest fires that did not employ only solar powered chainsaws. (See July 1, 2002, HUMAN EVENTS. )
The congressmen who voted against this bill pleased these activists.
A “yes” vote was a vote for the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. A “no” vote was a vote against the bill.
REPUBLICANS FOR (214): Aderholt, Akin, Bachus, Baker, Ballenger, Barrett (SC), Bartlett (MD), Barton (TX), Bass, Beauprez, Bereuter, Biggert, Bishop (UT), Blackburn, Blunt, Boehlert, Boehner, Bonilla, Bonner, Bono, Boozman, Bradley (NH), Brady (TX), Brown (SC), Brown-Waite, V., Burgess, Burns, Burr, Burton (IN), Buyer, Calvert, Camp, Cannon, Cantor, Capito, Carter, Chabot, Chocola, Coble, Cole, Collins, Combest, Cox, Crane, Crenshaw, Cubin, Culberson, Cunningham, Davis, Jo Ann, Davis, Tom, Deal (GA), DeLay, DeMint, Diaz-Balart, L., Diaz-Balart, M., Doolittle, Dreier, Duncan, Dunn, Ehlers, Emerson, English, Everett, Feeney, Flake, Fletcher, Foley, Forbes, Fossella, Franks (AZ), Frelinghuysen, Gallegly, Garrett (NJ), Gerlach, Gibbons, Gilchrest, Gillmor, Gingrey, Goode, Goodlatte, Goss, Granger, Graves, Green (WI), Greenwood, Gutknecht, Harris, Hart, Hastings (WA), Hayes, Hayworth, Hefley, Hensarling, Herger, Hobson, Hoekstra, Hostettler, Houghton, Hulshof, Hunter, Hyde, Isakson, Issa, Istook, Janklow, Jenkins, Johnson, Sam, Johnson (CT), Jones (NC), Keller, Kennedy (MN), King (IA), King (NY), Kingston, Kline, Knollenberg, Kolbe, LaHood, Latham, LaTourette, Lewis (CA), Lewis (KY), Linder, Lucas (OK), Manzullo, McCotter, McCrery, McHugh, McInnis, McKeon, Mica, Miller (FL), Miller (MI), Moran (KS), Murphy, Musgrave, Myrick, Nethercutt, Ney, Northup, Norwood, Nunes, Nussle, Osborne, Ose, Otter, Oxley, Pearce, Pence, Peterson (PA), Petri, Pickering, Pitts, Platts, Pombo, Porter, Portman, Pryce (OH), Putnam, Quinn, Radanovich, Ramstad, Regula, Rehberg, Renzi, Reynolds, Rogers (AL), Rogers (KY), Rogers (MI), Rohrabacher, Ros-Lehtinen, Royce, Ryan (WI), Ryun (KS), Schrock, Sensenbrenner, Sessions, Shadegg, Shaw, Sherwood, Shimkus, Shuster, Simpson, Smith (MI), Smith (TX), Souder, Stearns, Sullivan, Sweeney, Tancredo, Tauzin, Taylor (NC), Terry, Thomas, Thornberry, Tiahrt, Tiberi, Toomey, Turner (OH), Upton, Vitter, Walden (OR), Walsh, Wamp, Weldon (FL), Weldon (PA), Weller, Whitfield, Wicker, Wilson (NM), Wilson (SC), Wolf, Young (AK), Young (FL)
DEMOCRATS FOR (42): Alexander, Baca, Balance, Berry, Bishop (GA), Boyd, Cardoza ,Carson (OK), Cramer, Davis (AL), Davis (TN), Dooley (CA), Edwards, Etheridge, Frost, Gordon, Hall, Holden, John, Lucas (KY), Marshall, Matheson, McIntyre, Michaud, Mollohan, Murtha, Oberstar, Ortiz, Peterson (MN), Pomeroy, Ross, Sandlin, Scott (GA), Skelton, Spratt, Stenholm, Strickland, Tanner, Taylor (MS), Thompson (CA), Thompson (MS), Turner (TX)
REPUBLICANS AGAINST (12): Castle, Ferguson, Johnson (IL), Kelly, Kirk, Leach, LoBiondo, Paul, Saxton, Shays, Simmons, Smith (NJ)
DEMOCRATS AGAINST (157): Abercrombie, Ackerman, Allen, Andrews, Baird, Baldwin, Becerra, Bell, Berkley, Berman, Bishop (NY), Blumenauer, Boucher, Brown, Corrine, Brown (OH), Capps, Capuano, Cardin, Carson (IN), Case, Clay, Clyburn, Cooper, Costello, Crowley, Cummings, Davis (CA), Davis (FL), Davis (IL), DeFazio, DeGette, DeLauro, Deutsch, Dicks, Dingell, Doggett, Doyle, Emanuel, Engel, Eshoo, Evans, Farr, Fattah, Filner, Ford, Frank (MA), Gonzalez, Green (TX), Grijalva, Gutierrez, Harman, Hastings (FL), Hill, Hinchey, Hinojosa, Hoeffel, Holt, Honda, Hooley (OR), Hoyer, Inslee, Israel, Jackson (IL), Jackson-Lee (TX), Jefferson, Johnson, E. B., Jones (OH), Kanjorski, Kaptur, Kennedy (RI), Kildee, Kilpatrick, Kind, Kleczka, Kucinich, Lampson, Langevin, Lantos, Larsen (WA), Larson (CT), Lee, Levin, Lewis (GA), Lipinski, Lofgren, Lowey, Lynch, Majette, Maloney, Markey, Matsui, McCarthy (MO), McCarthy (NY), McCollum, McDermott, McGovern, McNulty, Meehan, Meek (FL), Meeks (NY), Menendez, Millender-McDonald, Miller, George, Miller (NC), Moore, Moran (VA), Nadler, Napolitano, Neal (MA), Obey, Olver, Owens, Pallone, Pascrell, Pastor, Payne, Pelosi, Price (NC), Rahall, Rangel, Reyes, Rodriguez, Rothman, Roybal-Allard, Ruppersberger, Rush, Ryan (OH), Sabo, Sanchez, Linda, Sanchez, Loretta, Schakowsky, Schiff, Scott (VA), Serrano, Sherman, Slaughter, Smith (WA), Snyder, Solis, Stark, Tauscher, Tierney, Towns, Udall (CO), Udall (NM), Van Hollen, Velazquez, Visclosky, Waters, Watson, Watt, Waxman, Weiner, Wexler, Woolsey, Wu, Wynn
INDEPENDENT AGAINST (1): Sanders
REPUBLICANS (2): Bilirakis, Miller, Gary
DEMOCRATS (6):Boswell, Brady (PA), Conyers, Delahunt, Gephardt, Stupak