Ironically, it was Ted Cruz who got me thinking about this element of the big fraud and scam of the Republican tax bill. During the November 28th CNN debate on taxes, Cruz, during a back and forth with Bernie Sanders, quietly pointed out that eliminating the estate tax is not part of the Senate Republican bill. To which Bernie pointed out, without objection, that it is in the House bill.
Holy shit. Ok, so, I’ve been so down in the weeds reading the details of the Senate bill that that little part had slipped by. Correct: eliminating the estate tax—which only benefits literally a few thousand of the richest families in the country (everyone else already has an exemption for $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for couples)—is only in the House bill. It’s not that it’s a secret but sometimes, in life, we let the elephant just tiptoe by, forgetting it’s in the room.
Big picture: does anyone doubt that Republicans will walk over hot coals to get rid of the estate tax? They have railed about the deceptively, disingenuously termed “death tax” for at least three decades.
But, Senate Republicans faced a problem—take a deep breathe, oh, you normal people who hate wonky Washington lingo–called “The Byrd rule” which essentially meant—to strip away all the micro details–the tax bill could not create budget deficits beyond its timeframe. That’s why the tax cuts for individuals—but not for corporations—expire after ten years.
But, that also meant that Senate Republicans could not include the elimination of the estate tax in the Senate bill because that would add another, roughly, $269 billion to the price tag of the bill and the elimination would extend, presumably, past the ten-year window, adding hundreds of billions more to the overall debt.
If the Senate passes a version of its bill, then, the differences between the Senate and the House version will have to be worked out in a “conference committee” (made up of negotiators from both bodies) before each body takes up final passage of a bill that is essentially the same. The Byrd rule apparently—by my reading and others I’ve asked—also applies to the final bill that comes out of the conference process.
Which leads to this:
How many people think the House, run by the fire-breathing lunatics of the Freedom Caucus who operate under no House rules with limitations about creating deficits from now until kingdom come, will give up on the cherished goal of eliminating the estate tax? Exactly zero.
And Republicans in the Senate know it. And don’t care.
But, that is a $269 billion shortfall just in this bill, and, likely, hundreds of billions of dollars beyond that.
So…how will the Senate so-called “deficit hawks” turn a blind eye to the big number clearly looming down the road?
Worth asking on the Senate floor. And seeing who will stand on the Senate floor and lie to the American public.