The disaster in the Gulf Coast changes the political dynamic on other big issues before Congress. For example, images of stranded hurricane victims in squalid shelters give Democrats ammunition against GOP plans to hold a vote next week on repealing the estate tax, a measure critics say benefits only the wealthiest taxpayers.(Emphasis supplied.)
That vote had been scheduled before Congress began its monthlong August recess. In a letter Thursday, Reid urged GOP leaders to postpone the issue.
"Given the tragic and devastating events along the Gulf Coast, members of the Senate would have great difficulty explaining why we were debating the estate tax during our first days back," Reid said in his missive to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
A nonpartisan budget analyst said it would be politically inopportune to cut taxes on the wealthy while the government was grappling with a humanitarian disaster that will add billions to the federal deficit.
"People would wonder what the heck the Senate is up to with all that is going on in Iraq and New Orleans," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a watchdog group.
Bob Stevenson, Frist's spokesman, said there was no plan to pull the tax bill from the schedule but that Frist was prepared to do so if necessary to make progress on relief.
WTF? Frist gets it bass ackwards. The estate tax repeal bill is not blocking the bill to provide Katrina relief. What really is occurring is this: The Katrina disaster points up what happens when we starve or attempt to strangle domestic programs (e.g., Army Corps of Engineers efforts to bolster flood control in New Orleans, the funding of FEMA, constructive efforts to address global warming). The estate tax repeal is dead because suddenly Americans have suddenly awoken to the reality that government and taxes are necessary and that there's no free lunch.
I will offer more comments on this topic later this evening.