Tire and auto repair industry representatives in Washington were disappointed at the Senate's failure to approve a House-passed bill that would have made permanent the repeal of the federal estate tax.
The vote June 12 was 54-44, six votes short of the three-fifths majority necessary under Senate rules to pass the measure. Two Democratic substitutes-one to raise the ceiling on exemptions from the tax to $3.5 million from $1 million, and another that would have exempted all family-owned businesses and farms-also failed to pass.
``It's disappointing because it hurts the President's economic agenda, and also because it hurts small, family-owned businesses and the millions of people they represent,'' said Roy E. Littlefield III, government affairs director of the International Tire & Rubber Association.
Particularly worrisome was that two Republicans-Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and John McCain of Arizona-who voted for an estate tax repeal in the past voted against the current bill, Mr. Littlefield said. Six Democrats who also once supported the repeal did a thumbs-down on the legislation.
``If Congress isn't going to repeal it, they should seriously consider reforming it so families of small businesses aren't left with the burden of a tax they cannot afford,'' said Robert L. Redding, Washington representative for the Automotive Service Association, in a press release.
President Bush signed tax relief legislation last year that gradually reduces the amount of the estate tax through 2010, when it is eradicated. But that bill's language allows the tax to return at current levels in 2011.
Though Mr. Littlefield wasn't hopeful the issue would arise again this year in Congress, he added: ``You never say never in politics.'' But Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, said he hopes to bring to the Senate floor a bill that would eliminate the provision in the tax relief bill that sunsets the estate tax repeal.