The Senate went on record Thursday as overwhelmingly opposed to a value-added tax – something much talked about by Democrats and those close to President Obama of late – approving by 85-to-13 a resolution declaring the penalty a “massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income.”
Twelve Democrats and one Republican, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, voted against the resolution, which was sponsored by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.
For McCain, who is facing a tough reelection primary fight against former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, it was a boost to his conservative credentials.
An aide to McCain, Joe Donoghue, said the senator decided to sponsor the resolution after returning to Washington following two weeks in his home state during Congress’s Easter break.
“Senator McCain came to us when he came back from recess and said [constituents are] talking about a VAT, and I want to do an amendment on the first bill we have up to prevent Democrats from doing that,” Donoghue said.
McCain attached the “sense of the senate” resolution to an extension of jobless benefits for unemployed workers. The senator ultimately voted against the benefits bill because it is not deficit neutral and violated recently instituted “pay-as-you-go rules.”
McCain was also spurred to action by a Thursday Wall Street Journal editorial, said Donahue. McCain read most of the editorial – which argued that rather than replacing the income tax, a VAT would be piled on and produce revenue to increase the size of the federal government – during his floor statement introducing the resolution.
“Several of my colleagues have explained that they would support a VAT if it was replacing the federal income tax or the current corporate tax structure,” McCain said in his statement. “I say to those colleagues that I have not seen a shred of evidence from the administration or anyone in Congress that the VAT would be used as a replacement tax.”
“I am supremely confident that – if and when it is offered – the VAT will be an additional tax on the American people,” he said, adding that the solution to runaway deficits and debt is to “cut spending.”
McCain, in a brief interview just off the Senate floor moments after his resolution passed, said he “wanted the Senate on record” to prevent the VAT from getting “off the ground” politically.
The senator said the VAT is a “free ride for politicians.”
Some observers believe the VAT could gain political momentum if the fiscal commission on the budget deficit, created by the president and scheduled to begin its work this month, includes a VAT in the recommendations that are due to Congress by Dec. 1.
But all six of the senators who are on commission – three Democrats and three Republicans – voted for McCain’s resolution condemning the VAT.
These are the 13 senators who went on record supporting a VAT:
- Daniel Akaka, Hawaii
- Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico
- Sherrod Brown, Ohio
- Robert Byrd, West Virginia
- Ben Cardin, Maryland
- Byron Dorgan, North Dakota
- Ted Kaufman, Delaware
- Carl Levin, Michigan
- Jack Reed, Rhode Island
- Tom Udall, New Mexico
- George Voinovich, Ohio
- Jim Webb, Virginia
- Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island
- Bill Nelson, Florida
- Mark Warner, Virginia