The vote garnered 58 Democrats. The House has now passed all of the components of President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut that House Republicans had separated and expanded into a tax-cut trifecta. Previously, the House passed two bills to reduce income taxes and to reduce taxes for married couples with children.
"By doing this, family businesses and family farms will stay in the family instead of being broken up to pay the IRS," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said after the vote.
The $182 billion plan would eventually repeal all taxes on estates. It would be phased in slowly and would not take effect until 2011.
Democrats said Republicans drafted the House estate tax bill so that it would not take effect until after 2010 to get the brunt of the budget impact past the 10-year budget-planning horizon and still claim success.
"It's the Republicans' health plan," said House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y. "Don't die in the next 10 years if you want to protect your estate."
Rangel offered an alternative, defeated in a 227-201 vote, that would immediately exempt all estates up to $2 million from estate taxes. That exemption would increase to $2.5 million by 2010, or $5 million for married couples. That alternative would "cost" the budget only $40 billion over 10 years.
But Republicans said a bill to completely repeal the estate tax showed the difference between the two parties.
"Let's set aside the specific dates and figures to examine the underlying dispute in this debate," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "And we should look beneath the surface, because the reason our parties disagree on this proposal stems from our core convictions."
The vote is considered irrelevant. Tax policy this year will be written in the Senate, where Democrats hold 50 seats. And on Wednesday, President Bush was facing extreme difficulty passing a non-binding budget resolution in that chamber that merely outlines his tax cut, but does not even pass it into law.
Three Republicans joined Democrats in the Senate Wednesday to pass an amendment drafted by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that reduces Bush's tax cut to $1.1 trillion to increase spending.
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