Estate Tax Repeal: Opening Floor Statement by Congressman Jim McDermott


Floor debate on Estate Tax Repeal (H.R. 1105)
Congressman McDermott’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. Speaker:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 17, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — It appears that the bipartisan good feelings of the last few weeks are gone. After reaching across the aisle to pass important legislation like the doc fix, my Republican colleagues are back to their old tricks of handing out tax breaks to the few at the expense of the many.

Today’s vote to repeal the estate tax is just the Republican’s last attempt to tilt the U.S. tax code in favor of their ultra wealthy campaign donors. This week’s target is the estate tax—a tax, I would mention, that was championed by Teddy Roosevelt, same guy that Republicans like to hold up as one of the greatest the party ever produced.

Their crusade to help the rich has gone too far. This proposed repeal of the estate tax is nothing more than a massive unfunded tax break for a very small sliver of America’s wealthiest families. And, as is usually the case with Republican tax policies, this repeal would do NOTHING to help hard working, middle class families.

The fact of the matter is, the estate tax is only paid by about 5,400 families—or the top 0.2 percent of estates in this country. Estates worth LESS than $5.4 million pay NOTHING. And what is the cost of providing a tax break to the top 5,000 families in the U.S.? $269 BILLION dollars.

So, is this really worth it? Do we really think most Americans would be ok with Congress handing over a quarter of a TRILLION dollars to the wealthiest among us?

Instead we could be using that money to extend the Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit—tax cuts that would ACTUALLY help Main Street America—the true drivers of our economy. Or we could fund universal pre-k, build new roads and bridges, and provide free community college to more than 9 million people.

Now, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will try to tell you that the estate tax hurts family farms. They’ll tell you that the estate tax forces farmers to liquidate in order to pay the estate tax. When pressed to provide examples of family farms being forced to liquidate my Republican colleagues pointed to a 15,000 acre farm they say had to be broken up to pay the estate tax.

Let’s put this into context for everyone: 15,000 acres is roughly equal to 23.5 square miles. That’s larger than the island of Manhattan—home to 1.6 million people.

I think most people would be hard pressed to believe that 23 square miles is a simple family farm.

As families at the very top of the income scales experience unprecedented wealth and prosperity—some might call it a second Gilded Age—Republicans are helping the rich get richer. Today’s vote would certainly help that. Repealing the estate tax would surely sow the seeds of a permanent aristocracy in this country.

So as we prepare to take this vote, I would ask my colleagues: whose side are you on? Are you on the side of working families in communities across this country who are struggling to pay the bills? Or are you on the side of ultra-wealthy heirs who don’t feel they need to pay taxes on the millions and billions they were handed?

I’m with hard working middle class families, and I hope you will be to. I strongly urge you to vote “NO.”


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