Republicans in Congress and some Democrats agree with voters. Our two main advocates in Congress, Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Senator Thune (R-SD) have introduced legislation to permanently repeal the tax. This legislation is picking up support quickly and now boasts 143 bi-partisan cosponsors in the House and 33 cosponsors in the Senate. The 60 Plus Association is key-voting cosponsorship of both of these bills and is presenting House and Senate cosponsors with our Benjamin Franklin award for protecting seniors.
In past election seasons, Republicans have wisely incorporated their support for death tax repeal into stump speeches and campaign events. By touting their support for repeal, Republican candidates show their constituents that they support helping family businesses survive to the next generation and are against double taxation. This position draws a sharp contrast with their Democratic opponents who are eventually forced to admit to voters that they support taxing death.
The large majority of Republican candidates swept into the House in 2010 promised voters to make repealing the death tax a priority. These members unfortunately have little to show for their promise to promote death tax repeal – legislating on taxes has only been written in back rooms at the 11th hour with Congress facing funding deadlines. It has been difficult for the Republican leaders in the House and Senate to promote repeal while also fighting to prevent a scheduled death tax increase to 55% – the immediate threat of which was disarmed by Republican Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), during the fiscal cliff tax deal.
Now that the estate tax law has been set at a 40% rate going forward and is unlikely to change again during this gridlocked Congress, Republicans should return to messaging death tax repeal to voters. In 2014 death tax repeal could be a big winner with voters but it is becoming harder for our strongest allies to tout their support for death tax repeal without actually voting to confirm it. Holding floor votes to repeal the death tax before the 2014 elections will help Republican candidates align around the position of full repeal, shared by the large majority of voters. It will show constituents that Republicans have taken legislative action to save their family businesses and farms. Congress has not held a full death tax repeal vote since a repeal bill passed the House in 2005. The 2005 vote passed 272-162 with over 40 Democrats, including eight Members of the Congressional Black Caucus voting aye. Indeed, 236 Members of the House and 41 Senators have never cast a binding vote on full death tax repeal. The time for another bi-partisan vote on repeal is long overdue.
The Death Tax Repeal Act will easily sail through the House with a bi-partisan majority and when Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) stands in the way, it will be just one more example of the need for a new majority leader in the Senate. Republican leadership should consider both the economic and political advantages of pushing death tax repeal legislation forward in advance of the 2014 elections.