Estate Tax Lumped Into Pension, Min. Wage Package

Senate Majority Leader warned this week's vote on a permanent estate tax repeal is last chance this year for a vote.

Senators are still trying to find life for partial estate tax repeal. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has combined the House's compromise on estate tax repeal with pension reform and minimum-wage increase in hopes of gaining the needed votes.

Reports indicate Frist has scheduled a Friday morning cloture vote to begin debate on the "trifecta" package. In a floor statement Frist states if the Senate kills the bill, the Senate will not return to it this year. "It's now or never," he says.

The estate tax portion of the bill repeals taxes for estates less than $5 million, with a stepped-up basis index. "It is pretty good for most farmers and small business people," explains Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley.

To stop debate or find cloture on a bill, the Senate needs 60 votes. Grassley explains there are 53 out of 55 Republicans who support the estate tax vote. Four of the 45 Democrats have said they'll vote in favor of the bill. That leaves the total at 57 votes, and Grassley adds he doesn't know where to get three more Democrat votes.

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