Washington Watch: Fair Tax, Georgia liberals and lapel pins

WASHINGTON -- Congressman-elect Rob Woodall campaigned on the Fair Tax idea that his former boss, retiring Rep. John Linder, has championed for years.

Woodall won the right to represent the conservative 7th Congressional District in northeast metro Atlanta, in fact, mainly because he out-Fair Tax-talked his Republican primary opponents.

Fair Tax supporters basically want to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, get rid of the federal income tax, corporate income taxes and other federal taxes and replace them with a national retail sales tax. Doing so, they say, will decrease the overall tax burden on consumers, reduce government spending and stimulate the economy.

So it wasn't surprising that Woodall's first meet-and-greet with the Washington press corps this week focused on his plans to reintroduce the Fair Tax bill that Linder has pushed for in Congress since 1999.

Between now and then, Woodall told me, he is busy rounding up a new posse of supporters on Capitol Hill.

"I only made one campaign promise," he said. "If you elect me, you will see me put more co-sponsors on Fair Tax than ever before."

Already, Woodall has 55 co-sponsors (10 former co-sponsors aren't returning in January) and has talked to at least 10 new Congress members who support the idea, he said.

With one of the biggest influxes of newcomers to Congress in recent history, and Washington intent on overhauling federal spending and taxes, Woodall and his former boss say there has never been a better time for the Fair Tax idea.

"He [Woodall] is in a perfect position, with a lot younger legs than I have and a lot more fertile mind," Linder said of his successor, protégé and former chief of staff.

Doing something as radical as abolishing the IRS and income taxes will take more than just dropping a bill in Congress, both Linder and Woodall acknowledge. That's why both mentor and protégé also are working on making their Fair Tax idea an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign, just like Republican primary contender Mike Huckabee did in 2008.

"Whenever you want to make huge changes or have big ideas, the president really has to lead the way," Linder said.

A new liberal leader from conservative Georgia

Georgia is one of the most conservative states in the country, but one of its representatives also is now a leader of one of the most liberal groups in Congress.

Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia was just elected whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the next Congress. With 83 members, the caucus pushes for social and economic justice and left-leaning causes, and it opposes most everything that Republicans favor -- which will be a particularly tough proposition after the GOP takes over the House in January.

"I'm ready for the battles ahead," Johnson said in a statement. "We won’t shy away from a fight."

That's not Jack Kingston

The little round lapel pins that members of Congress wear are both badges of honor and tiny security passes to the inside workings of Capitol Hill.

The pins identify members of Congress to security guards and others, getting them into otherwise closed-door meetings, around security checkpoints and into special members-only elevators and dining rooms.

Every now and then, somebody who isn't supposed to have one of the pins gets one. This week, one of them, a man named Walter Nelson Lewis, was arraigned in D.C. District Court.

According to several Capitol Hill publications, Lewis was busted last month after the U.S. Capitol Police questioned him about wearing the lapel pin. When asked, Lewis told officers he was Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah.

A Capitol Police officer quickly determined he wasn't Kingston, however, and placed Lewis under arrest.

Maybe it had something to do with age: Lewis is 26, according to reports.

Kingston -- while certainly boyish-looking -- is 55.