Last week, the U.S. House passed legislation to permanently abolish estate taxes. It now moves into the Senate for consideration, but it's expected to face strong opposition there. Last year, a similar measure passed the House, only to die in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) says he doesn't think there's enough support in the Senate to repeal the tax. It will require 60 votes to get the job done, something even the Republicans who want the bill to pass concede isn't likely.
The estate tax is scheduled to disappear in 2010, only to resurface one year later. This strange occurance is due to a 2001 law designed to gradually inherited estate-tax rates, with a final repeal of the tax in 2010. However, Senate rules designed to limit governmental budget deficits forced lawmakers to reinstate the tax in 2011.
As an alternative, Democrats tried to maintain estate taxes on some properties, specifically, raising the exemption beginning next year to $3 million for each individual and $6 million for married couples.
Republicans' arguement for repealing the estate tax is to "protect families who own small businesses and farms and prevent their heirs from liquidating their enterprises to pay their tax bills."
"The (House) vote is a victory for fairness, job creation and certainty for family businesses, farmers and ranchers,'' President Bush said. ``I urge the Senate to act on this important matter so that we can eliminate this unfair tax once and for all.''
Democrats argue that completely ending the tax would benefit the country's wealthy and push the nation further into debt, thereby only burdenning future generations.
According to the Associated Press, Internal Revenue Service statistics show that 52,000 estates paid taxes totaling more than $24 billion in 2000.
Daschle says lawmakers might support a bill that eases the burden on family farms and businesses. But the bill's supporters have rejected all talk of compromise.
Associated Press, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate.