WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Congress voted today to declare war on Spain.
For those of you who had not seen this coming, here's the background: In 1898, a hundred and seven years ago, the federal government began levying a temporary three percent excise tax on telephones to fund the Spanish-American War.
Political scientists say this may be the most ineffective special-use tax in the history of the American republic since it has been over a century since a single Spaniard has been killed. That soon may change.
The war effectively re-started when Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) introduced a bill to repeal the "temporary" tax.
The tax repeal failed as Republicans who had rallied around the opportunity to repeal another tax on the rich were stymied by Democrats who wouldn't or couldn't support them. According to Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who was serving in the Senate at the time the original tax was imposed, "This was a tax on a luxury, a tax on the very rich, so no self-respecting Democrat could ever vote to remove it."
"In an unusual display of principle over politics, the Democrats stood on principle, the most fundamental Democrat governing principle: tax it if it doesn't move, add a user fee if it does," said Professor Jacques McLean of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
The Republican response to the failure to repeal the war tax was summarized by the prickly maverick moderate and potential presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who argued, "At least we should be consistent and declare war on Spain."
Democrats took up the challenge and voted to affirm the declaration of war as they saw this as a chance to be on the right side on national defense for once.
"We're not opposing another war this close to the anniversary of 9/11, we have learned our lesson on that," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R.-Maine) co-sponsored the war resolution, saying, "I remember, if no one else does."
Other Democrats also took up the flag. "I'm tired of paying for a war that we are not having," said Rep. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). "Every time I make a phone call I get so mad I want to punch a Spaniard."
Military sources say the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt was reported leaving Subic Bay in the Philippines on its way towards the Strait of Gibraltar.
The national assembly of Spain, which reportedly was having a late dinner and some sangria, has not responded as yet.
Copyright 2006, Douglas Salguod