Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- A wide-ranging tax bill given up for dead by Washington's corporate lobbyists was revived largely because of the bipartisan ethanol bloc, including Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.
The bill contains many breaks for business, but what opened the door to approval was a provision extending tax credits for small ethanol producers. Ironically, the Republican-controlled Congress could save Daschle, who is facing a tight re-election race in South Dakota.

 A footnote: Both candidates in North Carolina's close contest for the U.S. Senate, Republican Rep. Richard Burr and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, were in Washington to lobby for the bill because of its payout to tobacco farmers. As a member of Congress, Burr was on the floor of both the Senate and House buttonholing colleagues for support -- a privilege denied to Bowles.


 Political rivals all year have ignored Sen. John Edwards's use of a tax shelter to avoid paying Medicare taxes on $10 million of money earned as a trial lawyer, but Vice President Dick Cheney brought it up in Tuesday's debate.

 In his last two years practicing law (1995-1996) before running for the Senate, Edwards set up a dummy corporation through which he received funds free from Medicare taxes. Cheney said Edwards saved $600,000.

 Edwards responded: "I have paid all the taxes that I owe." When Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth brought up Edwards's tax shelter in their 1996 campaign, Edwards replied: "I have paid every dime of Medicare taxes I owe." He then challenged Faircloth to raise the issue "to my face in debate." Faircloth did not. But when Cheney did, Edwards still made no response.


 House Republican leaders Tuesday brought up the military draft bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York, in order to stifle the Internet myth that President Bush will restore conscription if re-elected. But the 402-to-2 negative vote did not convince one of the myth's perpetrators: Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

 "Frankly," Jackson Lee declared, "let me say to my colleagues on the floor of the House, there is a secret plan for the draft." When Republicans greeted that with laughter, she concluded: "I will vote a resounding 'no,' but there is a secret plan for a draft."

 Rangel voted against his own bill. Raising the measure to defeat it, he told the House, is "a prostitution of the legislative process."


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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