It remains unclear whether or not the Senate will take a vote on the repeal of the estate tax next week before adjourning for August recess. Reports indicate that Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) continues to sort out his options — which could include delaying any votes until September or forcing one or more votes next week.
The Senate could simply vote on H.R. 8, a bill passed by the House earlier this year that fully repeals the estate tax, which primarily benefits extremely wealthy millionaires. Republicans have conceded, however, they do not yet have the necessary 60 votes needed to pass a full repeal. Alternatively, the Senate could take a vote on H.R. 8 (which would presumably fail) followed quickly by a vote on a compromise measure drastically reducing the estate tax that could attract at least 60 votes. At this time, though, there does not appear to be agreement on the compromise.
The business community is somewhat divided about strategy. Some are pushing for a vote as soon as possible, hoping to pressure Democrats to reach a deal on a compromise. Others in the business community believe that with a little more time and lobbying, they can persuade 60 Senators to vote for full repeal.
A repeal or a drastic reduction of the estate tax could result in the loss of upwards of $1 trillion over the first ten years when fully in place, which would endanger the federal government’s ability to invest in services for low-income families. At a hearing in the Senate yesterday, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he does not favor repealing the estate tax unless it is paid for elsewhere in the budget.