Billionaires May Win as Democrats Split Over Estate Tax
Senate Democrats, who are united in support of higher income tax rates for millionaires and billionaires, are paralyzed by disagreements on how to tax the estates of the wealthiest Americans.
Lobbied by business owners and billionaires, Democrats including Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana resisted a proposal from President Barack Obama to tax individual estates of more than $3.5 million — roughly three in 1,000 — at a top rate of 45 percent. The split among Democrats, who control the Senate, will give Republicans more influence on the issue after the Nov. 6 election.
“It’s something that’s really divided and perplexed our caucus about what’s the fair way to move forward,” said Landrieu, who supports repealing the estate tax and wants to reach a compromise with Republicans. “We don’t have the votes to do anything, really, with it.”
As a result, when the Senate votes as scheduled at 2:15 p.m. in Washington today on a bill to extend income tax cuts that expire Dec. 31, the proposal will be silent on the estate tax. Democratic leaders in the Senate sidestepped the estate tax to focus on an issue on which almost all of them agree: Obama’s plan to let income tax cuts expire for the top 2 percent.