|["The right to take property by devise or descent is the creature of the
law and protected by its authority. The legislature might if it proper,
restrict succession to a decedent's estate...or it may tomorrow, if it
pleases, absolutely repeal the statute of wills and that of descents and
distributions and declare that upon the death of a party, his property
shall be applied to payment of his debts and the residue appropriated to
public uses." Eyre vs. Jacob 55 VA 526 (1858)]
Bush's permanent repeal of estate tax unlikely to pass in Senate
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's call for a permanent repeal of the
estate tax faces likely death in the Democratic-controlled Senate, the
culmination of two days of election-year political theater.
Democratic foes of repeal advocate the redistribution of wealth, ``an
old Marxist idea that has been rejected everywhere in the world but
still has appeal'' in the United States, Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, said
Tuesday as debate began.
Democrats said their concern was more practical than philosophical.
Republicans, charged Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D, ``want to eliminate the
estate tax and dig the deficit hole deeper.''
Congress approved a phaseout of the estate tax last year as part of the
major tax reduction that Bush pushed to passage in his first few months
in office. To conform with Senate rules, though, the legislation was
written to expire on Dec. 31, 2010, meaning that the levy would be
resurrected in 2011.
Bush has asked Congress to make all of last year's tax cuts permanent,
and the GOP-controlled House complied with his wishes earlier this year.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., has pronounced that bill
dead, though, saying it would cause deficits to soar in the coming
In response, House Republicans have begun breaking the measure apart and
passing it again, piece by politically appealing piece, forcing Senate
Democrats to cast difficult votes in the run-up to the fall elections.
Despite the maneuvering, Republicans conceded in advance they expected
to fall short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Democratic objections
to permanent repeal of the estate tax. Democrats, eager to protect
members of the rank and file from political damage, advanced an
alternative that would repeal the tax for all but the largest estates.
Both sides employed time-tested arguments in the debate, and majority
Democrats used their prerogatives to bring the measure to the floor
shortly after the Senate approved an increase in the debt limit.
Conrad and others sought to make use of the juxtaposition -- accusing
Republicans of seeking to cut taxes for the superrich moments after
acknowledging the government's debt was deepening.
``For us now to say, we want to help the billionaires -- we've already
begun helping the millionaires -- but if we want to help the
billionaires we've got to do this, knowing that we're borrowing every
dollar from Social Security just doesn't make sense,'' said Daschle.
Gramm was scathing at times as he sought to rebut Democratic criticism,
attacking the passage in recent weeks of a spending bill and farm
legislation that exceeded Bush's requests.
``They're only upset when we're talking about letting people keep more
of what they've earned, but they're never, ever upset about spending
more money,'' he said of Democrats.
In contrast to the GOP repeal measure, the Democrats proposed exempting
estates of gradually increasing size from the tax over the next several
years. By 2009, estates of $3.5 million ($7 million per couple) would be
free of tax.
Conrad said at that point, only three estates per thousand would be
required to pay a tax.