The Drudge Report’s headlining of a Heritage Foundation story titled “Obama Couldn’t Wait: His New Christmas Tree Tax” has created quite a stir. In fact, it is being reported that the administration is now going to delay its implementation due to the outcry. Conservatives and Republicans are particularly incensed. However, it appears that they might want to rethink their Obama-as-Grinch narrative.
The National Taxpayer Union’s Demian Brady posted a link on his Facebook page to the 1996 bill that enabled the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a “Christmas Tree Tax.” As it turns out, the legislation was sponsored by then Rep. Pat Roberts – a Kansas Republican. John Boehner, the current Republican Speaker of the House, was one of the bill’s co-sponsors. The vote in the House was 318 to 89 with most of the “no” votes coming from Democrats. In the Senate, the vote was 74 to 26. Sen. John McCain was the only Republican to vote “no.”
As for the “Christmas Tree Tax” itself, my colleague Jim Harper is correct that it is indeed a tax (see also Ilya Shapiro’s post). It’s another example of how special interests – in this case, the Christmas tree lobby (!) – dominate policymaking in Washington, regardless of which party is in control. I would argue that there is no good practical, moral, or constitutional justification for the federal government to be involved in the marketing campaigns of business interests. Unfortunately, certain people saw the “Christmas Tree Tax” as an opportunity to further partisan aims rather than provoke a discussion and debate on the proper role of the federal government.