Dems line in the sand: estate tax rate (video)

Although Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders became a new folk hero to the left after his 8 1/2 hour filibuster speech on the floor of the Senate on Friday regarding the new tax cut plan, that still wasn't good enough to get him booked on one of the Sunday shows to explain his anger at the compromise legislation.  Maybe because there's little doubt about the package passing through that chamber.

A procedural vote in the U.S. Senate on the compromise tax package that President Obama and Congressional Republicans came to an agreement on a week ago will be taken this afternoon, and Senate aides tell the Wall Street Journal that it should procure between 65-70 supporters, with a vote on final passage expected Tuesday or Wednesday.

When the Nancy Pelosi led Democrats in the House opt to begin debate isn't clear just yet, as some Dems are making noises that the the deal made on the inheritance tax is simply a bridge too far for them to stomach. That deal would reinstate the tax next month to a top rate of 35% and applies to estates above $5 million.  It's currently scheduled to rise to 55% next year and apply to estates above $1 million.

First on Fox News Sunday was Maryland's Chris Van Hollen, who said that the very generous deal on the estate tax was a bridge too far for him and a certain  number of his colleagues

Van Hollen:Most of — most of us understand we gotta make some tough compromises. Most of us agree with almost all of what the president negotiated. There is one thing that just was the choking point, and that deals with the estate tax break. It doesn't go to current law.

If you go with current law, you would have — it's essentially $68 billion that it's going to cost the taxpayer over current law for 39,000 estates. We had a better compromise than that instead of the deal that was cut that provides $25 billion to 6,600 families.

That doesn't help the economy. It hurts the deficit. And most importantly, you know, the Republicans did not insist on the estate tax being part of the central portion of this deal.

WALLACE: But here's the question, then, and let's do just a little quick — will — if it passes in the Senate, and everybody expects that it will, will there be an up-or-down vote on the entire package?

VAN HOLLEN: There will be an opportunity for the House to work its will. What the form the bill takes as it comes to the floor is something that will be decided. People are looking at various alternatives. Again, the main sticking point for most people — again, some are going to reject...

WALLACE: I understand.

VAN HOLLEN: ... is this particular issue with the estate tax.

WALLACE: So what do you predict is going to happen? Will the House pass this as it's — now stands with some changes on the estate tax, or will it simply be voted down?

I am confident that when we get to January there will be no tax increases on middle-income Americans and certainly that — also that portion of the president's deal with respect to the top rate earners will also be part of...

WALLACE: So that...

VAN HOLLEN: ... part of the deal.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I think it's unclear. I mean, the House will have an opportunity to work its will on this measure.

Wisconsin GOP Congressman Paul Ryan liked what he heard from Van Hollen, and essentially said, bring it on:

RYAN: And so they're willing to hold up all of the other tax breaks, all of the other tax rates on middle-class families, on small businesses, so they can get this smaller increase in the estate tax.

I don't want to get into the "who's a hostage-taker" discussion here, but what is the estate tax? It's a double tax on death. Economists will tell you that it's really not a tax that soaks the rich, but it's a tax on capital that deprives business investment and therefore job creation.

But more importantly, this current policy — we're at zero and then we're going to go to a 35 percent tax rate. That's not enough for Chris and other House Democrats and they're willing to scuttle the entire agreement, an agreement which has bipartisan support in the Senate, an agreement with the president of the United States to get this moving and prevent tax increases from hitting our economy, which would be very destabilizing, very volatile, in January.

I think if the president actually bows to this pressure and participates in scuttling this deal, then what does that speak to our ability to have competence and bipartisanship in this new era of divided government we're finding in (sic)? How well will we be able to reach agreements that will stick if people are angry in parts of the party and then they unravel these deals?

The Dems reportedly would like to amend the bill to include a top rate of 45%, and apply to estates of $3.5 million or more.  There is talk of them voting on a separate bill just for that provision alone, before voting on the bill the Senate will pass.

Over on Meet The Press, the token liberal on the set, New York's Anthony Weiner, was asked how it felt to be called out by President Obama when he took on the left for not accepting the deal made.  Specifically, he was asked if he was one of those Dems chanting "Just say no." That led to Weiner's response, and then an in your face moment from former Kentucky Blue Dog Congressman Harold Ford, who told Weiner that the country, based on what happened in the midterm election last month, isn't really in favor of hearing what "his kind" has to say:

REP. WEINER:  Well, first of all, I wasn't leading any such chant.  But, look, let me, let me just say this, that the president has to understand that critique that he gets from his base and his supporters who want him to succeed is fundamentally different from the one they get from Mitch McConnell.  We're trying to help him be successful, and I kind of agree with him, this is like the public option.  If he would have fought harder for that, we would have had it.  You know, I think that we need—the president needs to understand that there's an enormous number of us who are just waiting to be called to kind of really have this competition of ideas.  We really need to have this contest. And, you know, look, he made a deal.  It doesn't necessarily mean it's a great one.  We, in Congress, now have it.  We're trying to improve upon it.  But we're on his team.  That's the fundamental difference he needs to understand. When he calls us sanctimonious and says this is like past debates, all—the only reason, the only reason that it's like past debates is we still want him to be the president that we elected.  And we're going to help him do that. And if he digs in and he fights for these values, he's going to find the American people support it, and we, his supporters, are really going to rally to his side.MR. GREGORY:  You know, Harold, the question was, was this a Sister Souljah moment, to go back to the Clinton era, for President Obama, standing up to the base?

REP. FORD:  Look, I think it's a moment where he's standing up for America and standing up for jobs.  Look, I like Anthony, respect him a lot, but to suggest that the president doesn't fight a lot, we had a fight, we had an outcome declared on November 2nd.  Now, he has fought and fought and fought, and frankly, has given Democrats in the Congress the ball to run every time. Unfortunately, the American people, whether it's a communications problem, and I don't think it is.  It's hard to communicate effectively when we have 9.8 percent unemployment, and have people rally around you.  The reality is we've done that before.  The president's move last week was an important move for the American people; and, at the end of the day, if unemployment begins to drop over the next quarter or two by a quarter point, every Democrat, including Anthony and others, will say, "This was the right thing to do.  Now we have to look at the next step in reducing the debt and ensuring that we create jobs.

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