Senator\’s proposal for tax hike in midst of economic recession is eerily reminiscent of Herbert Hoover, and threatens serious discord between moderate and liberal Democrats.

WASHINGTON – Does history repeat itself? Not in the mind of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass).

In a speech to the National Press club on Tuesday (read the speech), the Massachusetts Senator called President Bush\’s tax relief package, which passed last June, "tax breaks for the wealthy," and advocated canceling portions of it to pay for "other urgent priorities."

Taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, DC called the Senator\’s comments "inveterate balderdash," and said the tax issue "will alienate sensible moderate Democrats from the liberal leadership in their own party."

"\’Repealing the tax cut\’ is simply another way of saying \’raising taxes,\’ and raising taxes during a recession is tantamount to economic suicide," said Norquist. "America hasn\’t been subjected to such a display of high-level economic illiteracy since the Hoover Administration," he continued. "Taxes were idiotically raised during the 1931-2 recession and consequently turned a garden-variety downturn into the Great Depression. While Sen. Kennedy is just spewing hot air in the leftward direction at this point, we should treat his proposal as more than just rhetoric, but as a very, very serious threat to our nation\’s economic health."

President Bush\’s tax relief plan passed the Senate last May by a 58 to 33 margin. Twelve Democrats crossed party lines to vote for the tax relief package, including Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La), Robert Toricelli (D-NJ), Jean Carnahan (D-Mo), and Tim Johnson (D-SD) – all of whom face reelection in the 2002 campaign cycle. Each of these Senators also issued statements last week pledging their continued support of the tax relief measure.

Norquist concluded: "Thanks in large part to the passage of President Bush\’s tax relief package last year, the economy is well positioned to make a comeback this year. Rescinding this tax relief, whether whole or in part, would delay and perhaps even derail the ongoing recovery process. But if Sen. Kennedy wants to damage the economy in a vain effort to score political points for himself and his Big Government allies, he can be my guest. We\’ll see if the voters agree with his suicide strategy in November."