Tags: jim martin | estate tax | death tax | 60 plus | john gizzi

Jim Martin of 60 Plus Sets Record Straight on 'Death Tax' Repeal

Jim Martin of 60 Plus Sets Record Straight on 'Death Tax' Repeal
Jim Martin, Chairman of the 60 Plus Association. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

By Tuesday, 19 May 2015 11:03 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Amid reports that he is retiring as chairman of the 60 Plus seniors' association he put on the political map, James L. Martin told Newsmax he's not stepping back from efforts to repeal the "death tax."

"I’m leaving 60 Plus on July 1. And I'm going to make a transition to our foundation, where there are less slings and arrows flung at me," Martin said, telling Newsmax he wants to "set the record straight" about his plans.

"But that certainly doesn’t mean I’m retiring. I’m only 79, and that’s too young to retire," deadpanned Martin, who still plays in a seniors’ basketball league and occasionally substitutes on the Republican team in the congressional basketball league. "Just watch me shoot hoops!"

Martin is widely credited with coining the phrase "death tax" to describe the estate tax, whose repeal he and 60 Plus have doggedly pursued for two decades. Along with legendary singer and 60 Plus national spokesman Pat Boone, Martin — a former U.S. Marine, congressional staffer, and reporter — has long stressed the threat the estate tax poses for the middle class.

The tax is now a 40 percent levy on estates over $5.34 million and it is indexed for inflation).

"Boone’s endorsement for a candidate for office, on TV or in robocalls, is the gold standard among many seniors!” exclaimed Martin.

At a packed testimonial dinner in 2010, House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans hailed Martin for making the estate tax repeal part of their modern political manifesto. Martin's brother, decorated Vietnam War veteran Bob Martin, hushed the audience when he borrowed from the words of baseball immortal Lou Gehrig: "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, being Jim's brother."

Among those who joined Martin's cause in the late 1990s was then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Martin and Bush have been friends since 1968, when Martin gave the young man his first job after graduation from Yale working on the winning U.S. Senate campaign of Florida Republican Rep. Ed Gurney, for whom Martin was then the top aide. Bush bestowed on Martin one of his signature nicknames: "Buddha," which he explained came from "Jim’s wise political insight and the fact he had a much wider girth than he does now."

Later, presidential hopeful Bush told a cheering crowd at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in 1999: "I will sign repeal of the death tax, Jim Martin!"

The repeal bill passed the House by a vote of 272-162 in 2006, Martin said, adding that 42 Democrats were on the repeal side and Georgia Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop became the first member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote to kill the estate tax.

"I suspect his vote had a lot to do with the number of family farms in Georgia that were hit hard by the tax that forced family members to scramble and borrow to pay it," Martin said.

But the repeal measure never made it to the Oval Office for certain signature by then-President Bush. Efforts to overturn a filibuster in the Senate fell short by three votes.

On April 15 of this year, Martin was on Capitol Hill with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., for the next major vote on the death tax repeal. Again the measure sailed through the House, this time by a vote of 240-179. But again the Senate version fell short.

With the Obama White House firmly in favor of maintaining the death tax, party discipline was strictly enforced in Congress and the number of Democrats supporting repeal dropped. Martin, however, said that outside support for repeal was growing.

At a news conference in March, Harry Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce joined Martin and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to point out the devastating impact of the death tax on the 2.1 million black-owned businesses in America.
"We must kill the death tax!” declared Alford.

Martin believes that "the path toward 67 votes and a number needed to overturn a presidential veto is long," and that a Republican president in 2016 who would sign a repeal measure is what repeal backers should work hardest for.

"But as I told [Senate GOP Leader] Mitch McConnell, the path to 60, and enough votes to end a cloture, is possible," he said. Martin pointed out that more centrist Democrats, such as Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joseph Donnelly of Indiana, can be wooed to support repeal.

He added that Democrats facing difficult re-election battles, such as Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado, might also be won over because of the growing public support for repeal.
"If we don't get to 60, we’re taking names," he vowed.

As for himself, Martin again underscored that while he is “stepping back” from 60 Plus, he is by no means retiring from the cause he has given two decades of his life to, death tax repeal.

"After covering President Kennedy's assassination and the March on Washington and mentoring a future president," he said, "I have to come up with a command performance before any farewell."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Amid reports that he is retiring as chairman of the 60 Plus seniors' association he put on the political map, James L. Martin told Newsmax he's not stepping back from efforts to repeal the "death tax."
jim martin, estate tax, death tax, 60 plus, john gizzi
Tuesday, 19 May 2015 11:03 AM
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