(June 13) The effort by Senate Republicans to permanently repeal the death tax perished June 12, as supporters came six votes short of the 60 needed to cut off debate and approve the measure.

However, the effort is likely to be resurrected in future years, as lawmakers seek to make permanent a provision in last year’s $1.35 trillion 10-year tax cut that phases out estate taxes by 2010.

Without congressional action, the tax would be reinstated in 2011 due to Senate budget rules that required a 10-year sunset provision for last year’s tax package.

The House of Representatives on June 6 easily voted to permanently repeal the estate tax. That body has more votes planned on making permanent other provisions of the Bush tax cut, on a piece by piece by piece basis.

That strategy is expected to put election year pressure on vulnerable Senate Democrats while helping Republican prospects for November.

The Senate debate, culminating in a 54-44 vote that saw two Republicans vote against the permanent repeal and nine Democrats support the measure, triggered heavy rhetoric from both sides of the aisle.

While Democrats offered to raise the level at which the estate tax would be triggered, they said to eliminate the tax for the very rich would cost $100 billion this decade and $740 billion in the next decade — right at the time the baby boom generation is retiring.

Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, said Democrats justified breaking up the life’s work of business owners in order to preserve the redistribution of wealth.
“They are basically going to try to appeal to this old class struggle, this old Marxist idea that has been rejected everywhere else in the world but still carries currency in the United States of America,” he said.

According to the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Alexandria, Va., permanently eliminating the estate tax would benefit more than 5 million family businesses and provide freedom from the burden of spending millions in estate planning and special insurance policies to cover the tax.

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C., said in a June 12 news release that farmers and ranchers, more than any other group of Americans, would be harmed if the tax is not permanently repealed.