Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act of 2005--Motion to Proceed

By:  John McCain III
Date: June 8, 2006
Location: Washington, DC



Mr. MCCAIN. Madam President, let me say from the outset that I do not support full repeal of the estate tax. I have consistently voted against repealing this tax because of the impact it would have on the deficit, as well as the possible chilling affect it could have on charitable giving in this country. Having said that, I do recognize the need for commonsense reform of the estate tax structure. However, due to our serious fiscal constraints, we must proceed very cautiously on this and all other federal tax and spending matters.

In his 1906 State of the Union Address, President Theodore Roosevelt proposed the creation of a Federal inheritance tax. Roosevelt explained: ``The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the State because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government.'' Additionally, in a 1907 speech he said: ``Most great civilized countries have an income tax and an inheritance tax. In my judgement both should be part of our system of federal taxation.'' He noted, however, that such taxation should ``be aimed merely at the inheritance or transmission in their entirety of those fortunes swollen beyond all healthy limits.''

I agree with President Roosevelt, and I remain opposed to full repeal of the estate tax. I have indicated, for several years now, that I am open to considering a reasonable compromise that addresses the concerns of those on both sides of this issue. What constituted a fortune ``swollen beyond all healthy limits'' in 1907 is very different from the wealth we see today. I don't think it's unreasonable to raise the amount exempted from estate taxes in order to protect America's family farms and small businesses while maintaining the tax for huge fortunes. We need to debate this issue and come to some kind of resolution. As we all know, our colleague, Senator KYL, has worked very hard for a long time to craft an alternative to full repeal. His compromise deserves to be debated and voted on.

To his credit, the majority leader has consistently indicated that, if the Senate can secure cloture on a motion to proceed to legislation dealing with the estate tax, Senator KYL would be recognized to offer his alternative proposal as an amendment. Therefore, I am voting to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 8 so that we can debate and vote on the Kyl alternative. In 2001, I stated that I supported ``estate tax reform that will take into account the effect such reform will have on our robust charitable community. For this and other reasons, I support a $5 million cap with regard to the estate tax cut.'' My position remains unchanged today. Senator KYL's alternative proposal would put that $5 million cap in place. It is a good compromise and is consistent with my longstanding views on this issue.

I want to be clear. This vote should in no way be viewed as a vote in support of full repeal of the estate tax. It is not. It is simply a vote to allow debate and amendments on the issue--with one of those amendments being the alternative crafted by Senator KYL. This vote is consistent with both my longstanding opposition to full repeal of the estate tax as well as my support for a reasonable compromise. Again--I continue to oppose full repeal of the estate tax, but look forward to supporting Senator KYL's alternative proposal.

I yield the floor.

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