Pelosi didn't force that vote for one simple reason: it would have lost. Why? Because enough Democrats would have voted with the GOP to make it fail. These Democrats were afraid of being called tax increasers, even if it was only on the top 2%. But a lot of them also simply believe in the Bush tax cuts as a matter of policy.But in the wake of Nancy Pelosi's stance against extending tax cuts for the rich, Tomasky wonders what sort of leverage could be applied to get a bill through Congress. That would be the estate tax.
Before the election the Democrats were eager to compromise on the estate tax, and to set very high exemptions for estates before the tax would kick in. If anybody was advocating for allowing the estate tax cuts to simply expire, neither the media nor anybody else in Congress was paying attention.2 Any bill that partially extended the Bush tax cuts - a process better described as canceling in part the tax increases scheduled by George W. Bush and the Republicans then in control of Congress - would have resulted in an estate tax applicable to only a tiny number of gargantuan estates. I suspect Pelosi is planning a game of chicken involving the estate tax. Why is that gambit politically viable now when it wasn't prior to the election? Why might it work even though pretty much all Democrats would oppose reversion? Because if nothing is done during the lame duck session, along with the tax increases Bush and the Republicans scheduled for ordinary income, the estate tax reverts to its pre-2001 levels.
1. An anonymous Chief of Staff for a Democratic Senator writes, "If we want low and middle-income Americans to think we don't have the spine to fight for them, then how are we going to convince them to vote for us?" With all due respect for whomever his boss may be, I assume the question is rhetorical.
2. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) lectures his colleagues on balancing the budget,
"If some of us have to sacrifice a political career to get this country back on track, then so be it."Am I wrong in inferring from his statement that he's speaking exclusively of others - that is, his position is safe and will likely be strengthened by the positions he's taking?