Guess Who Could View Your 1040? - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Guess Who Could View Your 1040?

(Photo: AP) (Photo: AP)

WASHINGTON (AP)- Democrats said Tuesday they would block quick congressional withdrawal of a provision that would give more lawmakers access to income tax returns, demanding that majority Republicans first promise to stop rushing bills through Congress.

Members of both parties object to the provision, saying it is an infringement of taxpayers' privacy. But it has become caught up in a larger fight over Congress' habit of passing massive bills with lightning speed, giving lawmakers little time to learn precisely what they are voting on.

"This extraordinary invasion of privacy did not have the majority support of either chamber," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in announcing her plans to block House passage on Wednesday. "It was a 'Saturday night massacre' on Americans' privacy made possible only by the Republicans' willingness to abuse the rules of the people's House."

Pelosi's decision means the House probably won't be able to vote to repeal the tax-return bill on Wednesday, as planned. Unless something changes, the full House will have to return to vote on it Dec. 6.

When Congress approved a giant $388 billion spending bill on Saturday, it included a little-noticed sentence giving top lawmakers on the House and Senate Appropriations committees access to Internal Revenue Service facilities or "any tax returns or return information contained therein."

Republican leaders have blamed sloppy drafting by congressional aides and the IRS for the provision. They say they wanted to ensure that lawmakers and aides could enter IRS offices for oversight purposes, and that the special waiver is needed to be in areas where tax returns are processed.

After Democrats objected loudly to the tax-return provision, the Senate approved a separate bill Saturday night repealing the language. Congressional leaders agreed not to send the overall spending bill to President Bush for his signature until Congress had voted to repeal the tax-return provision.

With nearly all its members scattered for the Thanksgiving holiday, House leaders - using just a handful of lawmakers - planned to use a voice vote on Wednesday to approve the tax-return bill.

But Pelosi said Tuesday Democrats will object to voice-vote approval of that bill unless Republicans agree to start heeding an often-ignored rule requiring that the House not vote on bills until at least three days after they are approved by committees.

Republican leadership aides said Tuesday they will not agree to that demand. Unless something changes, that rather than voting on Wednesday as planned, the full House will not vote on the tax-return bill until Dec. 6.

John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Pelosi's decision was "blatantly political." He said when Democrats had the House majority a decade ago, they routinely used procedures that accelerated votes on bills.

Because of the delay, the House and Senate on Wednesday will have to pass bills extending the temporary authority for federal agencies to operate through Dec. 8. Currently, that authority runs through Dec. 3.

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