February 15, 2006
Frist on the Agenda
By John Fund
Majority Leader Bill Frist is doing all he can to put
highly visible issues on the Senate calendar as he prepares
to leave office later this year and launch his possible
2008 presidential bid.
He told the Conservative Political Action Conference
over the weekend that he intends, in mid-May, to bring
a bill to eliminate the estate tax -- or "death
tax" in CPAC parlance -- to the Senate floor.
Having excited economic conservatives, he turned next
to the social conservative agenda and promised that,
on June 5, he will bring up for a vote a constitutional
amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Mr. Frist said the
amendment is necessary because "the whims of a
few activist judges" cannot be allowed to "override
the commonsense of the American people."
Of the two measures, Mr. Frist stands a much better
chance of passing death-tax repeal. When the Senate
last voted on gay marriage in 2004, a procedural motion
to consider the ban received 48 votes -- well short
of the 67 votes needed to send the proposal to the House
of Representatives for consideration. Eliminating the
death tax is also a tall order, but Mr. Frist needs
only 60 votes to overcome a threatened filibuster. Right
now, he has 58 votes and pro-repeal groups plan a series
of TV ads in conservative states with Democratic senators
in hopes of convincing swing
Democrats that the issue is important to their constituents.
Jim Martin, chairman of Sixty Plus, a conservative advocacy
group for seniors, envisions one ad ridiculing the levy
as "the tax people are dying to pay." He predicts
the campaign will be just the push needed to get a handful
of Senators off the fence.
-- John Fund