'Don't Ask' to START DREAMing of a Tax and Spend Christmas

PatriotPost.us November's election sent a loud and clear message to Washington about overspending and overzealous government interference in the private sector. Although we don't often report polling because the Leftmedia use it to drive -- rather than reflect -- public opinion, the results of the most recent Gallup poll1 show that the 111th Congress has achieved the lowest approval rating (13 percent) in history. Yet it's clear that congressional Democrats didn't get the message as they seek to ram through their highly unpopular major initiatives before Christmas. These include a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," ratification of New START, approval of the DREAM Act, as well as appropriations and tax bills.

The Democrat-controlled Congress didn't bother passing a budget outline this year, and the federal government will run out of cash and delay payments when the current continuing resolution expires this Saturday. Though Democrats had all year to address appropriations legislation, they waited until after 63 of their House brethren were sent packing in November to consider a $1.27 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal year 2011. Fortunately, after losing Republican support, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) dropped the bill late Thursday -- ironically, the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party2 -- in favor of another continuing resolution.

The now defunct 2,000-page bill combined the 12 major appropriations bills for the year. It included $8 billion for 6,600 earmarks3, as well as $1.1 billion for ObamaCare, which would have made it that much harder for Republicans to accomplish repeal.

By large margins in both Houses, Congress did manage to approve the extension of current income tax rates for the next two years, but not without significant spending items attached. (Of course, Democrats consider preventing a tax hike4 to be a spending item.) Far from adding certainty in a down economy, the tax bill raises the number of temporary tax provisions5 in the tax code to 141. Barack Obama will sign the legislation today.

The bill adds $60 billion to extend unemployment benefits for yet another year -- benefits, however, that won't help people who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks. On top of that, the grave robbers of the Democrat Party insisted on restoring the death tax at 55 percent on estates of $1 million or more, but settled for 35 percent on $5 million beginning next year. There is no death tax in 2010. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) proposed an amendment making the Bush tax rates permanent and also repealing the estate tax, but it was defeated, as was an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to pay for unemployment benefits with other spending cuts. The two GOP senators, along with three others, voted against the bill. In the House, 36 Republicans6 voted no, almost all because of the added spending.

In other news, the House passed an ill-advised repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"7 on a vote of 250-175. The House passed a repeal earlier this year that went nowhere in the Senate, but this weekend, it's likely to pass there as well.

The Senate will likely ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START8, this weekend, though we're puzzled at the urgency. It would be the first treaty in history ratified by a lame-duck Senate.

The treaty is a renewal of the United States' bilateral agreement with Russia on nuclear arms. The original START expired last December, preventing teams from both nations from inspecting each other's nuclear weapon sites. Since the Senate must ratify any treaty, the administration is pushing for ratification before freshman Republicans are seated in January. The treaty would limit each nation to 1,550 warheads -- a third less than the old treaty. Our main concern, however, is that it is woefully inadequate in the "trust but verify" department, and it could critically hobble our missile defense if the Senate doesn't clarify U.S. interpretation.

Another bill inexplicably stamped "urgent" is the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would allow the children of illegal aliens to earn citizenship through military service or college education. Sadly, the DREAM Act wouldn't be needed if the border were secured (the murder of a Border Patrol Agent this week underscores that it's not) and legal channels for entering the country were expanded.

In summary, Democrats are determined to stuff as many things as possible under the Christmas tree, whether or not they're on the wish lists of American voters. For our part, we'd settle for a stocking full of Liberty.

Read More: http://patriotpost.us/edition/2010/12/17/digest/print/