Legislative Lowdown: The secret congressional plan to raise your taxes

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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The secret plan by Republican and Democratic senators to raise your taxes during the lame-duck session continues apace. More evidence emerged this week.

“Six Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee have signaled they would consider using revenue from closing tax loopholes to avert pending cuts to the military,” The Hill reported. Some Republicans are so terrified by the scheduled defense sequester cuts — cuts they voted for — that they are ready to hike taxes to avert cuts to military spending.

We already know that Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are comfortable with breaking the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge. Graham was quoted in The Hill as saying that he believes he and McCain can find $40 to $50 billion in new tax revenues from the “Toomey-supercommittee-Gang of Six-Biden-Kyl talks where we could put revenue [on the table] by closing deductions or selling property, increasing fees.” Does Graham care about breaking his pledge to the taxpayers of South Carolina not to raise their taxes?

Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), all members of the Armed Services Committee, said they would consider such a compromise. Yet Ayotte and Portman have publicly expressed an aversion to hiking taxes to avoid the defense sequester cuts.

Conservatives need to watch weak-kneed politicians to see if they cut a deal to hike your taxes to avoid cutting defense spending. It seems that these politicians can’t find real cuts to spending in the budget, therefore they promise spending cuts in the future and hike taxes now so they can spend us past $15.9 trillion in national debt.

The dangers of a lame-duck Congress

The 2001 and 2003 tax policies will expire this fall, and Congress seems to be punting any decision on extending tax cuts into the lame-duck session. The defense-cut sequester is scheduled to kick in next year, and many are promising a resolution during the lame-duck session. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) wants to use the same period to ram through the Law of the Sea Treaty. Congress will also have to pass a bill to keep spending going through 2013 and may take up another debt limit increase.

The bottom line is that these politicians are punting all of the tough decisions until after the election for the purposes of subverting the will of the people. They know if they hike taxes, gut defense and pass unpopular treaties before the election, many of them will be out of work. It is much easier for them to avoid the pressure of the voters by scheduling tough decisions until after the American people have the power to punish unpopular decisions.

Law of the Sea Treaty almost dead

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is a few senators away from killing the Law of the Sea Treaty. The Senate needs a two-thirds vote to pass any treaty, and this treaty is close to death. DeMint has 30 firm commitments on a letter to vote no on ratification.

The treaty would set up a U.N.-style world governing body for the oceans and is expected to be dominated by rent-seeking countries looking for money from the United States for drilling. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have signed onto the DeMint letter expressing opposition to the treaty.

Food stamp bill in House

The House is working through a version of a “farm bill” — which looks like a food stamp bill with a smattering of farm spending.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and ranking Democrat Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) have been hammered by liberals in the House for daring to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) by $16.1 billion. This isn’t even a true cut. It’s a cut to projected spending levels for a program that has become the fourth-largest entitlement program on the books.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) noted that the food stamp program makes up 80 percent of the farm bill spending for next year. Food stamps will cost about $770 billion over the next decade without reform. If the program were returned to an inflation-adjusted pre-recession level, the taxpayers would save $340 billion over the next 10 years — far more that the pittance that the House is offering to cut.

Yet, even the small cut to projected increases in food-stamp spending shows that the rent-seeking left will defend to the political death any cuts to the ballooning welfare state.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation.