WASHINGTON - Congress debated legislation Saturday giving two committee chairman and their assistants access to income tax returns without regard to privacy protections, but not before red-faced Republicans said it was all a mistake and would be swiftly repealed.This is a serious situation, said Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. He said he was unaware of the provision, inserted into a 3,300-page spending bill covering most federal agencies and programs.
Questioned sharply by fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, Stevens pleaded with the Senate to approve the overall spending bill.
Pounding on his desk, Stevens said he had given his word and so had Young that neither would use the authority. I would hope that the Senate would take my word. I dont think I have ever broken my word to any member of the Senate.
... Do I have to get down on my knees and beg, he said.
Both Young and Stevens will cede their chairmanships when the new Congress elected earlier this month takes office in January.
Some Democrats didnt accept the assertion that the provision was a mistake and demanded an investigation.
We werent born yesterday, we didnt come down with the first snow, said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. This isnt poorly thought out, this was very deliberately thought out and it was done in the dead of night.