June 8, 2006

Cloture, Cloture, Who's Got the Cloture?

Hatched by Dafydd

Two bills failed to break filibusters in the United States Senate today: both give ominous warning signs for the future.

Declare the Pennies On Your Eyes

  • First, by a vote of 57-41, the Senate failed to cut off a Democratic filibuster of the bill making permanent the repeal of the death tax, a.k.a. the estate tax.

The vote was disappointing but expected:

A 57-41 vote fell three votes short of advancing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the Senate will vote again this year on a tax that opponents call the "death tax...."

A small group of senators, knowing Republicans lacked the votes to eliminate the tax, had hoped to keep the issue alive with an agreement to remove the tax from smaller estates and lessen the hit on larger ones.

Frist had given the negotiators a lift by agreeing to give such a compromise a vote. That didn't give the tax's strongest critics enough support to maneuver the issue around Democratic opponents, however.

Note that by "lacked the votes," AP means there was a majority in favor of repealing this monstrous tax... but since it takes 60 votes to pass anything these days -- it's become routine for the minority to filibuster every last vote they're going to lose -- we fell short of the 60 votes necessary to move legislation.

Under current law, the death tax will diminish and finally disappear entirely in 2010 -- and then come back at full force, all 47% of it, in 2011. This is insane, of course; but it was the only way Bush could get the tax bill through in 2001, under a Democratic-controlled Senate (thanks to triple-J): everything sunsets in ten years. Some of the tax cuts have been extended, but the repeal of the death tax is not one of them.

There is both good and bad news here: the good is that there is a solid majority in the Senate for repealing this gross offense of a tax -- where the government seizes half the value of an estate deemed unseemly large, even though they had been taxing it all along... as it grew despite the best efforts of the IRS to crush it.

It's also good that four Democrats crossed party lines to vote for cloture, which means to vote for the bill, since repealing the death tax has more than 51 senators supporting it. I can only find the name of one, however: Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT, 90%); he is a liberal Democrat, oddly enough: 90% rating from the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) in 2005 and 29% from the American Conservative Union (ACU).

(Remember our system: when we refer to a Democratic member of Congress, the percent inside the parentheses is the rating from the ADA; when it's a Republican, the percent is the rating from the ACU.)

The bad news is twofold; first, that 41 senators refused to vote on the bill; second that two Republicans crossed over and joined the Democratic filibuster of the death-tax repeal: Sens. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI, 40%) and George Voinovich (R-OH, 76%). Voinovich costs Gryffindor an additional ten points with his fatuous rationalization of the vote:

"Repealing the estate tax during this time of fiscal crisis would be incredibly irresponsible and intellectually dishonest," Voinovich said.
Fiscal responsibility is the last refuge of tax-hiking scoundrels.
-- A Great Sage

Here is the other failed cloture vote with nasty implications:

The Inouye-Akaka Racial Classification, Group Areas, and Monarchy Restoration Act of 2006

  • The Senate today voted 56 to 41 not to cut off debate and not to vote on a bill that would have established a race-based government, independent of the United States, within the state of Hawaii -- where everybody in certain Hawaiian territories would be subject to the new government's laws, but only those with provable aboriginal Hawaiian blood could rule. Or even vote, I believe.

In other words, 56 U.S. senators voted to force the secession of a very significant chunk of Hawaii, which would then be free to create its own form of government, so long as whites, blacks, and Asians were excluded.

In fact, Sen. Daniel Kahikina Akaka (D-HI, 95%), one of the two sponsors -- the other was Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI, 90%) -- specifically said that the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act would allow aboriginal Hawaiians (with even a single provable drop) to bring back the monarchy.

Conservatives in the Senate today held together to defeat the Akaka bill which would have created a race-based government in Hawaii. Conservatives needed 41 votes today to kill the bill and they mustered just that number. The vote on cloture was 56-41.

Here the implications are reversed: it's good that this bill was stopped; but it's appalling that it had to be filibustered, that it ever had majority support in the first place.

I cannot find any report on this from the antique media; if there is one, please let me know in the comments. All I can find is some blogging, notably by Tim Chapman's Capitol Report on Townhall.com. And here is Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN, 92%) blogging on the bill, shortly after it was successfully filibustered:

Senator Akaka’s legislation would have created a new, independent government within our country – a government defined by and composed of a specific racial group. Worse still, Senator Akaka recently made clear that this race-based government would have been under no obligation to remain within the United States or to adhere to the most basic of our political principles: “[T]he governing entity will make a decision as to what happens to independence or returning to the monarchy.”

And 56 U.S. senators supported this.

I cannot at this point find a roll-call; but since there are only 44 Democrats and one Mugwump (Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-VT, 90% ADA -- Jeffords caucuses with the Democrats), that means there must have been at least 11 Republican senators who voted to bring the bill to the floor for a vote it would almost certainly win.

These are not Republicans bringing some embarassing bill to the floor so Democrats could be humiliated; these are 11 Republican senators who want "native Hawaiians" (by which they mean aboriginal Hawaiians, since everyone born there, regardless of race, is a "native Hawaiian," according to the 14th Amendment) to have their own Bantustan within the territorial boundaries of the United States; and even a king, if they want.

And of course, if it turns out that two or three Democrats voted against cloture, then two or three more Republicans must have voted for it.

Worse, this was just a filibuster, and the bill enjoys majority support; therefore, Inouye and Akaka will certainly try to insert it as an "amendment" to some bill that cannot be filibustered, such as the budget or funding for the global war on jihadi terrorism. Eventually, it will pass; God help us all if the House of Representatives is as enamored of racist monarchies as the Senate evidently is.

In addition to everything else, the bill is bitterly unconstitutional:

United States Constitution, Article IV, § 4:

The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government.

United States Constitution, XIVth Amendment, § 1:

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

It would be struck down in a Hawaiian second (equivalent to a New York minute), and every senator in "the world's most exclusive club" knows this... which means that every, single one of those 56 senators is a race-pandering, boot-licking, ring-kissing, wormtongued lickspittle to the mewling, condescending racial supremacists who are actually driving this risible "movement" -- against the wishes of the aboriginal population of Hawaii, by the way, as much as against the majority population of the state.

These senators are not just elitist aristos and closet monarchists; they are hypocrites and liars of the first water, pretending to their masters that they can get one of them crowned Kamehameha VI, when in fact, they all know it's a sham.

Fifty-six. More than half. Think about that: even in the best of cases, 20% of the Republican caucus in the Senate fits the description above. Bear this in mind the next time you wonder why Bush can't get conservative bills through Congress.

Equal-Opportunity Outrage

So there you have it. I'm outraged that the repeal of the death tax was filibustered, that 39 Democrats and two RINOs think the "fiscally responsible" thing to do is for the government to seize half of the family business or the family farm when Dad dies.

And I'm very glad that 41 senators sustained a filibuster of the Inouye-Akaka Racial Classification, Group Areas, and Monarchy Restoration Act of 2006; but I'm appalled that more than half the Senate voted in favor of a bill that's every bit as immoral, racist, and blatantly unconstitutional as the Jim Crow laws of the pre-Civil Rights South.

Neither bodes well for the republic.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 8, 2006, at the time of 4:25 PM

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The following hissed in response by: The Yell

Sam Walton already died, monkyboy; if there's still a family dynasty I guess your tax doesn't work.

Besides which, you're just supporting the transfer of wealth from mortal people to undying corporations. No estate tax can stop IBM.

From what I hear the Hawaiian bill was a personal favor to Inouye and Akaka from fellow Senators who promised it for their votes on other matters. I believe a majority of Senators agree with us that it's repugnant, unconstitutional, and will likely be struck down by a court--but in today's Senate that's no barrier at all.

The above hissed in response by: The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 6:05 PM

The following hissed in response by: cdquarles

MB, banned troll from CQ:

Your rant is BS and you know it, since it isn't your money in the first place. The closest thing to an aristocracy here is the "professional" political class, particularly your left wingnut pals like Dingy Harry Reid and their enablers like George Soros, William Gates, Warren Buffet, et al.

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 6:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: MarkD

The estate tax doesn't affect the very rich, they have their foundations and trusts to shield their wealth. It'll never affect me, but I'm against it because it's unfair.

The above hissed in response by: MarkD [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 6:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I know Sammy died, Dafydd....

It always cracks me up when the poor right does the bidding of their rich masters.

You what always cracks me up? My templates generate two copies of the name of the commenter -- one above the post, and the other below it, and each one reading "The Yell" -- yet you still can't figure out who wrote it!

But then, I have an odd and cruel sense of humor.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 6:37 PM

The following hissed in response by: Diffus

Do not count on the courts to do the right thing. Remember McCain-Feingold.

The above hissed in response by: Diffus [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 6:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Baggi

I'm a little bit confused about the way you write about this, Dafydd.

No one voted for or against either bill, they voted for or against cloture.

Isn't that a big difference?

The only time i'm for a no vote when it comes to cloture is if they really do want to debate more about it. But used as a political tool to stop a vote, i'm against.

So, if the bill is for killing all women with red hair and I were a senator, i'd vote for cloture but against the bill.

How do you go from voting for cloture as a vote for the actual bill? The Marriage Amendment only got 49 votes for cloture, but I bet it would get more than 60 votes because of election worries. It probably wouldn't get 67, but it would get much more than 49.

But you see the trick, right? If you don't vote for cloture, you don't have to go on record as being for or against a bill.

So, I would vote for cloture for the Akaka bill and then I would vote against it.

The above hissed in response by: Baggi [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 8:03 PM

The following hissed in response by: The Yell

Too often they inherit a $5,000,000 tax bill on $10,000,000 worth of property. Meaning it gets sold. To somebody--or some entity--with at least $5,000,000 in ready cash or the resources to borrow that much.

If govt. giving the rich a discount on other rich people's property is "progressive" then I'm glad to be conservative.

The above hissed in response by: The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 8, 2006 11:43 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E


I absolutely agree with your positions on both issues. How’s that for a shocker?

But Baggi has a point. (Although I’m not so sure our exalted Senators would vote cloture for reasons as lofty as Baggi would.)

It’s not clear that the cloture vote really indicates that “56 U.S. senators voted to force the secession of a very significant chunk of Hawaii.” Your paragraph that talks about race-pandering, boot-licking, etc. says why. These scoundrels can claim that their vote against cloture shows that they sympathize with minorities. But if the bill itself ever came to a vote, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a number of them voted against it and rationalized the contradiction by acknowledging that the law would be unconstitutional.

This doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy about prospects for the bill’s defeat. But I prefer to believe -- well, at least I HOPE -- that Congress and the President wouldn’t allow such a travesty to be codified into law, even if only temporarily, until the Supreme Court slaps it down. After all, once something reaches that level, the Supremes might just let it stand for some obscure legal reason -- notwithstanding the Court’s new makeup. I certainly HOPE that wouldn’t happen, but one can’t be 100% sure. It definitely would be far better to kill the bill now.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 12:28 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E

The Yell-

I assume you are talking about some kind of non monetary asset like a farm or a business. I’m no tax expert, but I’m pretty sure that, if the $5,000,000 were received in an arm’s length sale, that would be prima facie evidence that the property was only worth $5,000,000, so the tax would be more like $2,500,000.

The thing that torques my jaw is the fact that non monetary assets are viewed differently than monetary assets -- or at least many people think they should be.

Compare two individuals, each of whom had or borrowed $50,000 to invest back in the 1950’s. One bought a farm, worked the land, and, through hard work and luck saw his farm increase in value over the years, until it was worth $10,000,000 when he died.

The other took his $50,000 and invested it, along with savings from his salary over the years, in the stock market, where it grew to $10,000,000 at the date of his death.

I’m sure that just about everyone who agrees with the death tax thinks that the stock market investor’s estate should be taxed on its full value, less basis.

But folks get all weepy-eyed about farmers. (It’s a way of life, not just a business, I’ve heard some say.) A smaller number get all choked up about small business owners. Why, they ask, should the heirs have to sell the farm or the business in order to pay the death tax?

My response is that the farmer and the small business owner made conscious decisions to acquire and stay in their chosen businesses. They could have invested their money in stocks, (or real estate or pork belly futures) but they chose not to, and they chose not to sell their assets before they died. Why should their heirs be treated any better than everyone else?

The answer is, they shouldn’t. But they also shouldn’t have to sell the farm or the family business to pay death taxes. Because NO ONE should have to pay the death tax.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 1:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: velocette

If Paris Hilton is worth a billion bucks and uncle sam takes all of it, the national debt of $8,372,167,824,862.35 will become 8,371,167,824,862.35. Congratulations! Your plan achieves the goal of being confiscatory without significantly reducing the deficit! I predict a great future for you in the democrat party. If you parlay your political skills properly you may become a ward heeler or -- dare I say it -- even a precinct captain. If you're really lucky, Ted Kennedy may let you wash his boat. Dream big, monkyboy! The sky's the limit for a politically savvy guy like you!

The above hissed in response by: velocette [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 4:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

As a former Cleveland-er, I can only say that Voinovich is entirely predictable: he likes taxes. Every single tax. He votes yes to them all. He's a twit.

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 11:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: Don

Well folks - I have a big problem with removing the estate tax entirely.

The problem is with the convergence of the estate tax and the capital gains tax - or non tax. Someone like Soros or the Walton heirs don't pay tax the way you or I do or even like mere millionaires do. He pays on whatever assets he sells - and selling is optional for most billionaires. The treasury gets something when they die and that's about the only time they are forced to pay up under the current system.

Absent some kind of wealth tax the system will continue to tax the heck out of income and ignore wealth completely. I have a problem with that. At the same time I also have a problem with forcing the sale of family farms of a reasonable size, etc.

So I think raising the estate tax to a reasonably threshold (say $10 million) and taxing above that is a reasonable middle point. I'd add a provision tying the threshold to some reasonable inflation measure to keep inflation from dropping the taxation point. What say?

The above hissed in response by: Don [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2006 5:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Urey

Regarding the Akaka bill - there is a superb, and thorough, discussion of its political genesis and failings, including a list of the votes by name, on the Hawaii Reporter site. Go to: http://www.hawaiireporter.com/story.aspx?776a58dc-ad25-4db7-aad8-7494c122c56d

And note that the final judgment seems to be "Deader than Dead" - a good thing.

The above hissed in response by: Urey [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2006 12:18 PM

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