Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Wednesday blasted the Obama administration for implementing a new tax on Christmas trees, calling the proposal a “crony-capitalist subsidy scam.”
The Agricultural Marketing Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture, on Tuesday established a national Christmas Tree Promotion Board that requires producers and importers of fresh-cut Christmas trees selling more than 500 trees per year to pay an assessment of 15 cents per tree as part of an initiative to improve the marketing of fresh Christmas trees.
“[D]oes anyone in America — anyone? — believe that Christmas trees have a bad image that needs taxpayer-subsidized improvement?” DeMint asked in a post on his official blog. “All I want for Christmas is a free market.”
“[W]hile this policy will, by design, help one group of people, it will hurt others: businesses that sell artificial Christmas trees, people who work at your local stores that sell them, and, don’t forget, the consumers who are out 15 cents a tree,” DeMint said.
The proposed 15-cent per-tree fee would be imposed on tree producers and importers but could be passed down to consumers.
DeMint pledged to introduce an amendment “soon” that would repeal the “single stupidest tax of all time.” He could find some support among other Republicans, many of whom reacted to the proposed rule as the details spread on Wednesday.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) called the proposal “outrageous” in a tweet. In his own tweet, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called it the Christmas tree industry "outsourc[ing] their marketing efforts to the federal government."
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Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) also protested in a Facebook post that Christmas trees don't need an image make-over.
"The Christmas tree is a religious symbol that doesn't need a special tax and shouldn't receive special promotion from the government," he posted.
“The administration is once again challenging American liberty and now defaming the real meaning and spirit of Christmas,” Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said in a statement. “The size and role of government has already grown to epic proportions over recent years, and the administration’s use of the holidays to promote their goals of increased government intervention and a tax-and-spend agenda is simply unacceptable."
The fee, which would fund the formation of a new Christmas Tree Promotion Board, was proposed by a group of producers and importers called the Christmas Tree Checkoff Task Force. The proposal was entered into the Federal Register on Nov. 8, 2010, and was open for comment until Feb. 7, 2011.
The process leading up to the UDSA order took three years, and inspired heated debate amongst members of the industry, according to multiple reports.
The National Christmas Tree Association, an organization of fresh-cut Christmas tree professionals which backs the proposal, on Wednesday said the majority of the industry favors funding the program.
According to the group, at least 18 other similar programs are already authorized through the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. Other programs include the "Got Milk?" and "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" campaigns, both of which have been challenged in court and stirred controversy with those within the industry who object to funding the campaign.
“The program is not expected to have any impact on the final price consumers pay for their Christmas tree," the association said in a statement.
--This post was updated at 2:01 p.m.