Making Political Hay on Tax Day

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: House Republicans used toady's IRS deadline to score some points with voters by introducing a vote on a Constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority of Congress to increase federal taxes. Republican sponsors say the amendment will make it harder for politicians to dip into the pockets of American families, but Democrats suggest it is political grandstanding. "It is a gimmick, something to bring up in a reelection speech," says TIME's Karen Tumulty. "Republicans are not actually trying to amend the Constitution. They want to drive home the point that they are serious about not raising taxes and that under the Democrats, taxes have grown." House Speaker Newt Gingrich promised House Republicans the April 15 vote after he stripped the tax measure from the balance-balanced budget amendment because he feared it would not pass. Nobody believes it will pass today either, says Tumulty. What is truly significant about the tax-day stunt, she says, is that the Republican Congress has now voted on more constitutional amendments than any Congress since the Bill of Rights was enacted. "It is sort of ironic that the people who bill themselves as conservatives seem so anxious to make changes in the Constitution." The measure was being debated Monday without so much as one committee hearing, said Tumulty, and attendance was sparse on the House floor Monday afternoon. "Amending the constitution is just about the most serious thing the Congress could do," notes Tumulty, but five hours before the vote, there were only four members on the floor.