What: All Issues : Fair Taxation : More Equitable Distribution of Tax Burden : S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Kyl of Arizona motion to instruct conferees to make permanent reductions in the estate tax/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 159)
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S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Kyl of Arizona motion to instruct conferees to make permanent reductions in the estate tax/On the motion
senate Roll Call 159     May 09, 2007
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This vote was on an amendment by John Kyl, R-Ariz., instructing conferees on the fiscal 2008 budget resolution to insist that the final measure provide for estate tax relief. These "motions to instruct" are intended to provide guidance to the conferees on a bill (conferees are members of the House and Senate who meet to hammer out the two chambers' differences on a bill).. Motions to instruct are not binding on conferees, and as such mostly serve as a platform from which lawmakers can talk about a range of topics, or to put the majority of the chamber on record as endorsing an idea that bears on the conference. The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress' budget priorities in fiscal 2008. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.

Specifically, Kyl's amendment would instruct conferees to include in the measure a reduction of the estate tax rate from 46 percent to 35 percent, along with language that would provide exemptions to shield smaller estates from having to file an estate tax return.

The estate tax is the tax charged on property that's willed to someone upon their death (hence why Republicans often refer to the tax as the "death tax.") Easing or repealing the estate tax has been a priority for fiscal conservatives for some time. Republicans argue that the estate tax hampers small businesses and family farmers; they also say the estate tax amounts to "double taxation."

Kyl said he would prefer that the estate tax be repealed altogether. "I have been trying to find some agreement on reform since we haven't been able to get the votes for repeal. It is a nightmare for families now, and that is why I want to see if we can find a bipartisan way to do that this year. America's small business owners, farmers, and ranchers deserve this kind of certainty now," Kyl said.

Democrats counter that attempts to repeal or ease the estate tax are mainly for those who are already wealthy, since the tax affects a relatively small number of people. In order to be subject to an estate tax, the estate being willed must exceed a total taxable value of $1 million – according to the Internal Revenue Service, only 2 percent of estates are subject to the estate tax.

Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., opposed the amendment, saying it is unnecessary. "We have already provided for estate tax reform in the budget resolution that passed the Senate. I will do everything I can, as chairman of the Senate delegation and chairman of the conference, to uphold the Senate position, which is to reform the estate tax."

The Senate voted, 54-41, to adopt the amendment. Republicans were united in favor of the amendment. Democrats mostly voted against the amendment, though 8 voted with Republicans. Thus, the amendment added language instructing conferees to reduce the estate tax rate while providing exemptions for smaller estates; however, this language is not binding.

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