By Leada Gore
The U.S. House has put a stake in the heart of the death tax.
By a vote of 240-179, the House voted Thursday to repeal what's officially known as the estate tax that covers property transferred from a deceased person to their heirs. The federal tax on estates is 40 percent, though the number of people that actually pay that amount is less than 2 percent.
Republicans have long sought to do away with the tax, saying it hurts small business owners and farmers. Democrats said repealing the measure only helps the wealthy. The current exemption allows for $5.43 million for a single person, $10.9 million for married couples.
Like Congress as a whole, the Alabama delegation's vote split along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of the repeal and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, voting against.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said the move is designed to prevent "Uncle Sam knocking at the door with his hand out taking advantage of a family's grief.
"Any added revenue the death tax brings into the national treasury is not worth the burden it puts on families and the destruction it causes, especially to small family businesses and family farms," Aderholt said.
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, said he has long thought the death tax should be done away with. Having been established to help fund U.S. operations in World War I, it was "intended to be temporary," Palmer said.
"I doubt it was ever good policy, but in any event, the purpose for it has long passed and it is time it meet its permanent end," he said.
While the House passed the measure, it's unlikely it will receive a lifeline in the Senate, where it may not have enough GOP votes to overcome a filibuster or at the White House, where President Obama has threatened to veto the measure.