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Frist on the Agenda

February 15, 2006

Frist on the Agenda

By John Fund

Senate 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


© 2006 American Family Business Institute