- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

House Republicans were forced to postpone a vote yesterday on a bill that gives a tax break to military personnel rather than risk its failure because of extraneous amendments.
Democratic leaders, who led the charge against what they considered a bloated bill, said Republicans squandered a chance to aid service members by allowing the add-ons, which included tax breaks for manufacturers of fishing-tackle boxes and some types of archery equipment, and for foreigners who place bets on U.S. horse races from outside the country.
"If Republican leaders had not tried to stiff soldiers and subsidize special interests, then the House would have already passed the Armed Forces Tax Fairness Act," said Rep. Martin Frost, Texas Democrat.
"As a result, while our troops are preparing for war, and while Americans are suffering from yet another Bush recession, this Republican House is AWOL."
The underlying bill provides $482 million for capital-gains tax cuts for military who sell their homes and for tax breaks for National Guard and reservists to cover travel expenses related to military training.
Similar versions have passed the House twice.
But Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, told members of his committee last week they could attach other tax provisions to the bill. He said he and other Republican leaders felt the underlying bill was strong enough to carry the measure to passage.
Democrats and some Republicans, though, thought it unseemly to load the bill. Realizing the bill may be in trouble, Republican leaders tried to shore up support by adding an amendment that would have punished companies that move offshore to avoid U.S. taxes.
That concept has been popular among Democrats, but it wasn't enough to win their support and lost the support of some Republicans who say the problem isn't the companies but rather the tax code itself that makes it cheaper for those companies to move.
"Instead of attacking that, we ought to be attacking the tax code," said Matthew Specht, a spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican.
In the end, Republicans pulled the bill from yesterday's calendar.
"There were concerns raised by our members as well as your members and we felt compelled to address these concerns," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, told Democratic leaders on the House floor.
Democrats considered it a big win for them, and took credit for calling attention to the bill and its add-on amendments.
"Today, a significant number of House Republicans joined with Democrats in their distaste for the maneuvering on this bipartisan bill important to those on the front lines," said Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, who said he strongly supported the underlying military tax bill.
Republicans said they still felt they had the votes to pass the bill, but they figured there was no need to push the issue.
"We could have passed the bill, but there were many members who were uncomfortable taking that vote, and it was unnecessary to make members feel uncomfortable," said one House Republican leadership aide.
Republicans felt there was no need to push their members to make a tough vote on this measure because the next few weeks will present several other difficult votes.
The aide said Republicans will come back with another bill, though no decision has been made on whether it will contain only the military tax breaks or also include some of the other tax breaks that won unanimous support in committee.

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