Donald Trump had a weird habit of bragging about having eliminated the estate tax, to the point that he actually seemed to believe it. That was unfortunate: the Republicans' regressive tax plan in 2017 narrowed the eligibility of who would be affected by the estate tax, but the GOP did not scrap it altogether.
That said, the party still wants to. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) issued this press release yesterday about a re-introduced Republican bill.
Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and fellow lawmakers today reintroduced the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2021 to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, commonly known as the "death tax." The Death Tax Repeal Act would finally end a punitive tax that has the potential to hit family-run farms, ranches and businesses upon the owner's death.
According to the press statement, the new legislation is co-sponsored by half of the Senate Republican conference. It also includes the support of the entirety of the Senate GOP leadership: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is on board, as is Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.C.), who tweeted about the bill late yesteday.
The good news is, Senate Republicans have finally found a policy idea they're eager to work on. The bad news, their policy idea is to give more tax breaks to the wealthiest of the wealthy.
Obviously, given the political circumstances -- Democrats control both the White House and Congress -- this legislation will not succeed. In fact, it won't get a hearing or a vote, either. Republicans know this, but they're eager to champion the proposal anyway.
And that, in and of itself, is extraordinary. As regular readers may recall, the estate tax currently only applies to estates worth more than $22 million. By most estimates, we're talking about a few thousand Americans -- each of whom is among the wealthiest of the wealthy -- who might actually be affected by the tax.
But Senate Republicans are eager to champion the cause of these millionaires and billionaires, even if the bill won't pass.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) declared a couple of weeks ago, "The Republican Party is not just the party of country clubs. The Republican Party is the party of steel workers, construction workers, pipeline workers, police officers, firefighters, waiters, and waitresses."
That's nice rhetoric, I suppose, but while Republican senators oppose minimum-wage increases for those waiters and waitresses, they also have no qualms about giving yet another tax break to the country-club crowd.
Complicating matters further is the context: literally today, congressional Democrats are going to pass an ambitious COVID relief package that focuses most of its benefits on low-income and working-class Americans. The New York Times explained over the weekend that the Democrats' American Rescue Plan "would overwhelmingly help low earners and the middle class, with little direct aid for the high earners who have largely kept their jobs and padded their savings over the past year."
A Washington Post report added that the American Rescue Plan "represents one of the most generous expansions of aid to the poor in recent history."
It's against this backdrop that 25 Republican senators decided the time to introduce a bill to give a tax cut to millionaires and billionaires is ... right now? If the GOP is lucky, voters won't notice.