(CNSNews.com) - The House has approved a measure to permanently repeal the estate tax, dubbed the death tax by conservative opponents.
That gives Republicans the right in this election year to claim they are the party of tax-cutters. The Democrat-led Senate is not expected to go along with the move, however.
The House bill, which passed Thursday on a 256-to-171 vote, would remove the "sunset" or expiration date of legislation repealing the estate tax. On January 1, 2011, the estate tax - which will be repealed completely in 2010 - will return unless Congress passes a law blocking that from happening.
The National Federation of Independent Business hailed the bill's passage. "The House has spoken. The president has spoken. Now the only remaining roadblock standing between small family business owners and their life's work is the U.S. Senate, and we're looking forward to the upcoming vote there," said NFIB President Jack Faris in a statement.
"Why should the government penalize our farmers and small businesses with a death tax?" asked House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) "No one invests blood, sweat and tears in a business so that the government can be better off. They do it so that their children can be better off. We need to honor that."
Hastert, in a statement, said it's "plain and simple" that the "death tax is bad for all small business owners and farmers because the tax can take more than half of a business they spent their whole lives building.
Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), author of The Permanent Death Tax Repeal Act of 2002, called the death tax "the most ethically disgraceful tax levied by the federal government."
Senate Democrats, who have agreed to consider the legislation no later than June 28, say they have enough votes to defeat it.
They plan to offer alternatives to the House version of the bill, so that death taxes would be permanently repealed on some relatively small estates, but not on the estates of the wealthiest Americans.
See Earlier Story:
Senate Will Debate Permanent End To The 'Death Tax' (24 April 2002)