Any day in which the House or Senate refrains from doing something destructive is about as good as it gets in Washington lately. Yesterday, the Senate cleared that low bar when it rejected efforts to repeal the estate tax.Looks like the Dems finally put their collective feet down, and not a moment too soon. Still, they probably wouldn't have had enough "feet" if it weren't for a couple of Reps who finally demonstrated some common sense.
The nation is at war and the budget is so wildly out of balance that the government cannot pay its bills without borrowing money from foreign investors. The idea that this is a good moment to repeal a tax on people who inherit multimillion-dollar estates is mind-boggling. But Congress, pushed by the lobbying efforts of a handful of super-rich families, was on the brink of doing just that. The country was saved from that fate when the Senate fell three votes short of the 60 needed to prevent a filibuster by Democrats who were rightly horrified by the whole idea.
The senators who deserve the most credit for saving the day, however, were George Voinovich of Ohio and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Republicans who broke with their party to help block consideration of the repeal. Mr. Voinovich said, rightly, that the idea of eliminating the tax under current conditions was "incredibly irresponsible and intellectually dishonest."And why is Congress suddenly lurching into been-there-done-that territory in recent weeks when there is plenty of relevant business to be done? Oh, right, it's an election year!
Majority Leader Bill Frist, on the other hand, was the chief culprit. Mr. Frist appears convinced that the best way he can demonstrate his potential as a presidential candidate is to march the chamber through votes on all the most divisive and useless legislation moldering on the agenda — banning gay marriages, writing a prohibition of the nonexistent flag-burning problem into the Constitution, and eliminating a tax that applies only to the richest 1 percent of the population.Could this be the effect of having Rove go back to doing what he does best: skewing the issues to the extreme right in order to energize the wingnut base?