Friday, June 09, 2006

Estate tax stays unrepealed

The fight's far from over, but for now the Republicans are unable to permanently kill the estate tax.

Voting 57 to 41, with only a few lawmakers crossing party lines, the Senate was three votes short of the number needed to end debate on the bill, dooming it on procedural grounds. The vote all but killed hopes at the White House and among Republicans on Capitol Hill of eliminating the tax on large estates, which under current law would be phased out by 2010 but would return in 2011.

Republicans are now debating whether to give up on their goal and attack Democrats in the coming midterm elections as obstructionists on a measure that they say has considerable support, or settle for a bipartisan measure that would stop short of eliminating the tax entirely.

I strongly encourage the Republicans to try the former route. That way they can make political hay out of it and see how far they get. More importantly, it would eliminate any chance that the repeal passes this year.

Let me repeat my main point regarding the tax: If you're going to eliminate $100 billion a year in tax revenue, there are all sorts of better things to spend that money on -- fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax, for example. Better yet, keep the tax and pay down the deficit.

Tangentially, Bill Frist is now for 0-for-2 an the wedge issue votes -- estate tax, gay marriage -- that were supposed to grease the skids of his presidential campaign. Maybe he'll realize that voters are far more concerned about real issues -- as nicely spelled out by Molly Ivins.

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