GOP calls House back into session to deal with tax-return issue
(c) 2004, The Washington Post
WASHINGTON – House Republican leaders were forced Tuesday to summon lawmakers back into session next month to quell an uproar over a belatedly-discovered provision in a huge spending bill that would have given appropriations committee chairmen access to Americans’ tax returns.
Lawmakers thought they were done with the $388 billion government spending bill when they approved it Saturday. But, because Democrats balked at holding a quick vote without a roll call Wednesday, House members will have to return Dec. 6 to pass a resolution repealing the tax-return provision, which will free the spending bill to go to the White House for signing.
The spending bill, which funds most domestic operations of the federal government through September, was approved by both houses Saturday. But the Senate, furious over the House-drafted tax returns provision, refused to send the measure to President Bush until both houses voted to repeal the contested language.
The Senate did so Saturday, and House Republicans agreed to follow suit, hoping the House could approve the measure by unanimous consent to avoid calling all members back to Washington for a rollcall vote on the issue on the day before Thanksgiving.
But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., issued a statement Tuesday saying Democrats would not go along with a vote Wednesday unless Republicans agreed to stop rushing bills through Congress. She demanded that they limit what the Democrats called “martial law” procedures dispensing with a rule requiring a three-day wait between the filing of a House-Senate conference report and a vote on the House floor.
“The assault on taxpayer privacy was not a simple mistake, and Democrats will not let Republicans sweep it under the rug,” Pelosi said. “It was a ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ on Americans’ privacy made possible only by the Republicans’ willingness to abuse the rules of the people’s house,” she added.
Pelosi said Democrats would agree to a vote Dec. 6 “after the rest of the spending bill can be examined,” along with passage Wednesday of another “continuing resolution,” or stop-gap spending bill for the government, that would last through Dec. 8. Current spending authority runs out Dec. 3.
Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service