Frist Slapped Again -- This Time on Estate Tax
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Blogging from Yearly Kos
I'm sure when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) mapped out his ideal scenario for June, he envisioned banning gay marriage, outlawing flag burning, cutting taxes on multi-million dollar estates and making the gun people happy by passing an NRA-friendly carry-permit bill.
So far, the beleaguered Frist is zero for two.
The latest defeat came today in the Senate, when a vote to invoke cloture (end debate) on the House Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2005, which would have repealed federal estate taxes on inherited wealth, went down in flames. The cloture motion, which requires 60 Senators voting to end debate and invoke a full Senate vote on the issue, failed 57-41, when the GOP could only strong-arm four Democrats into voting to proceed while two Republicans -- George Voinovich of Ohio and Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee -- voted with the Democrats to kill the measure.
Frist, who is somehow still full of himself despite a number of major defeats as Majority Leader, pushed forward with the vote, thinking he could overcome objections from conservative Democrats and gain enough support to end debate and bring the bill to a vote -- he was wrong.
"The audacity of the Bush Administration and their Congressional allies truly knows no limit," said Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in a statement after the vote. "In spite of all of the urgent problems facing our nation – from the ongoing war in Iraq, to the devastating hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast that has not yet been repaired, to the outrageously high gasoline prices that are squeezing American families – the top Republican priority is eliminating the estate tax for the richest families in the country."
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the repeal of the estate tax would cost more than $700 billion in the decade after it would have become effective in 2011 and Frist was unable to convince enough Senators that it was politically advisable to support yet another tax cut for the wealthiest Americans while contributing still more to the biggest budget deficit in U.S. history.
Republicans tried mightily to paint Democrats as the bad guys on this, despite the fact that the estate tax now hits less than one percent of American families.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that this issue was yet another distraction in Frist's bag of tricks leading to the midterm elections and called it a fitting follow-up to the GOP's silly attempt to ban gay marriage.
"We are wasting precious days on these divisive issues when there are so many other matters that deserve and demand our attention," said Reid.
The measure had passed the House of Representatives 272-162 in April 2005, but is dead without Senate approval.
"This is about allowing the wealthiest Americans, much of whose wealth accumulation has never borne a tax, to escape taxation at a time when we're up to our neck in debt and at war,'' said Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) yesterday.
And so we move on to the next wedge issue -- flag burning -- in a month that Bill Frist and the GOP leadership hoped would provide enough hot air to blow them to victory in November.
That isn't going to happen, warned Kennedy.
"The dollars that Republicans now want to spend on the ultimate tax break for the rich - allowing the heirs of multimillionaires to inherit their enormous wealth tax free - are dollars that should be used to help all Americans," said the Massachusetts Senator. "The American people deserve better; and in November they will insist on a new Congress that truly shares their values and cares about their needs."
You can reach Bob Geiger at firstname.lastname@example.org