- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

A single line in the 3,000-page, $388 billion spending bill covering most nondefense and nonsecurity programs for the budget year that began Oct. 1 will delay getting President Bush to sign the bill.

Although Congress managed to pass the bill, one line that would have given two committee chairmen and their assistants access to people’s income-tax returns has brought it to a halt.

The Senate already has approved a resolution nullifying the idea. House leaders promised to pass it Wednesday. Then, the spending bill will head to the White House.

“I have no earthly idea how it got in there,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But, obviously, somebody is going to know, and accountability will be carried out.”

Mr. Frist referred to the bill Saturday night as the “Istook amendment,” and congressional aides said it was inserted at the request of Rep. Ernest Istook Jr., Oklahoma Republican.

Mr. Istook, chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee, said in a statement yesterday that the Internal Revenue Service drafted the language, which he said would not have allowed any inspections of tax returns. “Nobody’s privacy was ever jeopardized,” he said.

“If there is ever a graphic example of the broken system that we now have, that certainly has to be it,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told NBC’s “Meet The Press” yesterday. “How many other provisions didn’t we find in that 1,000-page bill?”

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