Thursday, August 03, 2006

Senate Shoots Down House Estate-Tax Sham

The Senate Thursday night killed the estate tax bill passed by the House of Representatives last week along with the minimum wage "increase" that Republicans attached to the bill to force Democrats to vote for another tax cut for the rich.

The legislation, a GOP election year attempt at another big tax cut for the wealthy, while also providing them a chance to claim they voted for a minimum wage increase, was killed in the Senate by a cloture vote of 56-42, with 60 votes needed to keep the bill alive and move it to an up-or-down vote.

"This is a cynical ploy on the part of the Republican leadership in an election year," said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today in a statement announcing that she would not support the legislation.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pushed to have the late-night vote done at least partially to clear the decks of yet another waste of Senate time -- the body has voted down estate-tax changes many times -- and to get some work done once Senators return from their August break.

"It’s time to put this charade to bed. My side is ready to end this circus," said Reid on the Senate floor. "Let’s have a cloture vote right now, so we can get on with business of the American people. The Senate has already spent too much time on the number 1 priority of Republicans - - giving 800 billion dollars in tax relief to 8,100 of the wealthiest Americans. We need to vote, and we need a new direction."

The National Restaurant Association will be crying in their beer tonight as they lobbied hard for the most onerous feature of the House bill: A provision that would force seven states that allow tipped workers to receive the full minimum wage
before tips to revert to a $2.13 per hour wage and then count workers' tips toward their employer's full minimum wage requirement.

Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who has long been the minimum-wage champion in the Senate, was disgusted at finding himself in the position of having to oppose a wage increase that he has forced to a vote three times in 2005 and 2006, only to see the bills shot down by the GOP leadership each time.

“This Republican bill is a cynical ploy to strong arm outrageous tax breaks for the wealthy through Congress on the backs of America’s hardworking, low-wage workers,” Kennedy said. “And what’s worse, this Republican bill takes money right out of the pockets of more than one million workers in seven states that do not count tips toward the minimum wage. It’s a pay cut for maids, waitresses, and other Americans who rely on tips to make a living. It violates the values that are the bedrock of American strength – fairness, equality of opportunity, and respect for hard work.”

The next move for Reid and Kennedy needs to come as soon as they return from the summer recess -- if not first thing tomorrow -- and it should be to propose Kennedy's legislation yet again and give those Republicans who claimed this week to care so much about working families the chance to put up or shut up.

You can reach Bob Geiger at