Remember the military bill Republicans had to yank after some House Ways and Means Committee members added a few special interest provisions to it? A stripped-down version of it passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 422 to 0.
But despite the massive Democratic outcry earlier this month, the minority party went along with a measure that included several of the GOP's last-minute amendments, including one eliminating the 10 percent tax on fishing tackle boxes and another imposing a tax on foreign bow and arrow producers.
Committee spokeswoman Christin Tinsworth questioned the Democrats' about-face on the Tax Relief, Simplification and Equity Act of 2003, which also provided tax benefits for ranchers forced to sell their livestock during times of drought. It did not include all of the GOP's amendments, such as a proposal to eliminate the 30 percent tax on winnings that foreigners reap from betting on horse races in the United States.
"They made a big fuss, but at the end of the day, they supported this stuff," Tinsworth said.
But the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), said he and other Democrats had no choice because the Republicans tacked the provisions on a bill providing about $500,000 in tax benefits to the families of the seven astronauts who died.
"[F]orever in our hearts," Rangel said, "we will remember the families of the Columbia shuttle, and whatever we can ever do in the Congress or anywhere, for that matter, to ease their pain and to show our support, we want the families to know that even if sometimes it means swallowing hard, they can depend on us being there for them as they were there for us."
Dan Maffei, spokesman for committee Democrats, said the key thing was that the controversial provisions were no longer on the military tax bill, which is likely to make it into law. The tax simplification and astronaut bill, he said, is "not necessarily going to go anywhere."
CALLING WASHINGTON: Protesters and antiwar demonstrators were out in full force last week, attacking President Bush on everything from the tax cut to the war with Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of activists jammed the Capitol switchboard on Wednesday, complaining that Bush was slighting the nation's poor to fund his $726 billion tax cut.
"We hope that Congress will stop the irresponsible Bush tax and budget plan," said Children's Defense Fund spokesman Toby Chaudhuri, whose group joined with other liberal organizations including the AFL-CIO, People for the American Way and MoveOn.org. According to Chaudhuri, the protesters managed to tie up the House and Senate switchboard for five hours Wednesday.
The same day, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) joined Reps. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) in a teleconference with nine members of the European Union. The American lawmakers and European parliamentarians spoke at length about the Bush administration's failure to galvanize a broader international coalition in favor of the war.
Luxembourg's Claude Turmes was particularly critical of how the administration was launching a preemptive strike. "Democracy is at stake," he said. "In your country, democracy has been hijacked."
Italy's Luisa Morgantini said Bush should pay more attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, adding that the United States is "breaking the unity of the United Nations."
Kaptur said she and the other two lawmakers would continue speaking with their European counterparts, whether it was via teleconferencing or other means.
"We're very concerned about mission creep," Kaptur said, fearing Bush might launch another preemptive strike after Iraq. "What's the next country? Is it Syria? Is it Iran?"
CODE PINK: To some protesters, being antiwar isn't enough. A group of women calling themselves "Code Pink" gathered outside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's office Wednesday. They sported fake blood on their hands and faces as well as bandages.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been a vocal opponent of the war since Congress confronted the issue last fall. Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daley noted that she started out as a grass-roots activist back in San Francisco.
"She understands the activism of people," Daley said. "That's their job, to try to persuade people."
CHECKING OUT THE TOURISTS: With the war now underway, Washington tourists may be in for scrutiny themselves. According to informed sources, tourists will be subject to a background check using the FBI's national database, in an effort to prevent potential threats to the Capitol. The Capitol Police plan to close off some of the galleries from which tourists view congressional proceedings; that will also cut down on how many ordinary citizens will be able to watch goings-on in the House and Senate.
THE WEEK AHEAD: The Senate will continue work on the fiscal 2004 budget and may take up war- or terrorism-related legislation. The House may consider legislation dealing with child abductions.