NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Estate Tax Vote Shows Sticking To Principles Works

June 28, 2000

For many years, Republican activists were frustrated by party leaders who offered watered-down versions of Democrat proposals. Now, by sticking to their principles on estate tax repeal, Social Security privatization and tax cuts, Republicans are forcing Democrats to do the compromising. Instead of Republicans proposing liberalism lite, Democrats are proposing conservatism lite.

The clearest example of this is the estate tax.

  • One needs at least $675,000 of wealth to incur any estate tax liability and only about 2 percent of all deaths result in payment of even $1 of estate tax.
  • But supporters of repeal understood that if the case for total abolition could be made, then the political climate for incremental reforms would be greatly improved.
  • A vast grass roots assemblage of farmers, small businessmen and others put the heat on their elected representatives to get on board.

On May 25, the House Ways & Means Committee approved H.R. 8, "The Death Tax Elimination Act of 2000," sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.), defeating a substitute by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to cut all estate tax rates by 20 percent -- a compromise Bill Clinton indicated he would sign.

On June 9, the House voted 279 to 136 in favor of H.R. 8. Not only did 65 Democrats vote to abolish the estate tax, but Republicans were unanimous in support.

There is no doubt Bill Clinton will follow through on a promised veto. However, there would still be time to enact the Rangel substitute before the end of the legislative year. That would be a big step toward repeal and confirmation that the best way to get something good out of Washington is by sticking to one's principles.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, June 28, 2000.


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