GOP Sends Estate Tax Bill to Clinton

Thursday, August 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican congressional leaders are sending the White House a bill to repeal estate taxes, inviting another veto confrontation with President Clinton and setting the stage for a September veto override attempt in Congress.

The legislation, which would gradually phase out the tax over 10 years at a cost of $105 billion, passed the House and Senate earlier this summer with sizable Democratic support. But Republican leaders kept the bill tucked away on Capitol Hill, waiting for an opportune time to send it to Clinton.

``A veto is a win for big government, high taxes and more stalemate,'' said Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, outlining the difficult spot in which Democrats could find themselves. ``A signature is a win for families, small-business owners and farmers who are haunted by this unfair tax.''

The bill was set to be delivered to the White House Thursday via farm tractor by Lynn Cornwell of Glasgow, Mont., operator of a third-generation cattle ranch and president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association — a group that has long lobbied for estate tax repeal.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., also planned an event at a farmer's market in Columbia, S.C., to highlight the effect estate taxes have on farmers, small businesses and high-tech entrepreneurs.

Under the Constitution, Clinton will have until just after Labor Day to sign or veto the bill, meaning GOP leaders could hold the override vote the first week or two after Congress returns from its summer recess. White House officials said Clinton would certainly veto it, saying it primarily benefits the wealthy and would consume $750 billion of projected surpluses during the 10 years after the tax is fully repealed.

``The more people learn about the dangerous exploding nature of this tax plan, the less they like it,'' said White House spokesman Jake Siewert. ``We think you could do more targeted estate tax relief that takes care of the small businesses and family farms.''

Earlier this month, Clinton vetoed another big Republican tax cut: the 10-year, $292 billion bill that would have eliminated the income tax penalty paid by millions of married couples. Republicans are likely to also attempt a veto override on that bill.

Sixty-five Democrats joined all Republicans in the House vote to pass the estate tax repeal bill in June, exceeding the two-thirds threshold necessary to override a veto. But House Democrats say a combination of absentees and a handful of switched votes will give them the margin to sustain the veto.

``If somebody changes their vote on death tax repeal, it would be a huge show of inconsistency,'' said Rep. Jennifer Dunn, R-Wash. ``It should be used by an opponent in that race.''

Heirs of only about 2 percent of all Americans who die each year are forced to pay estate taxes, mainly because of a $675,000 individual exemption that a married couple can double with simple planning steps. The exemptions are even higher for farmers and small businesses, but many are still forced to buy costly insurance policies and pay lawyers and accountants to protect hard-earned assets from a tax that reaches 55 percent.

``In essence, we've been planning for our deaths for about 20 years,'' said Dan McGregor, president of a 325-employee auto parts manufacturing company in Springfield, Ohio. ``The older we get, the more onerous the planning is.''

Republicans have long sought to get rid of the tax, which they deride as the ``death'' tax, but it has only begun to resonate in these recent prosperous times, notably among blacks and Hispanics who are increasingly building successful businesses. Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush advocates repeal of the tax, while Democratic nominee Al Gore favors simplifying exemptions and raising them for farmers and small businesses.


The bill is H.R. 8.

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