Senate Dems blast Trump for 'absurd' call to repeal estate tax

Senate Dems blast Trump for 'absurd' call to repeal estate tax
© Greg Nash

Top Senate Democrats on Tuesday blasted President Trump's proposal to repeal the estate tax as part of his plans to overhaul the tax code.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal MORE (D-N.Y.), Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress should elevate those trapped in the gap – support ELEVATE Act IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries IRS waiving penalty for some in first filing season under Trump's tax law MORE (D-Ore.) and Senate Budget Committee ranking member Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) Sanders2020 Dems seize on MLK Day for campaign messaging Sanders knocks Trump in MLK Day speech Grassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices MORE (I-Vt.) argued that repealing the tax would benefit the rich and could come at the expense of the middle class.

“Our bottom line is repealing the estate tax abandons progressivity,” Wyden said on a call with reporters.

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“This is a totally absurd proposal,” Sanders added.

In a speech in North Dakota last week, Trump called for repeal of the estate tax in order to help farmers. Republicans have long disliked what they call the "death tax."

"We’ll ... protect small businesses and family farmers here in North Dakota and across the country by ending the death tax," Trump said.

But the Democrats pointed to data from the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that found that only about 5,400 of the wealthiest families would benefit from estate tax repeal. Under current law, only estates for married couples worth more than about $11 million are subject to the tax.

“This does not affect the family farmer in North Dakota or anywhere else,” Schumer said.

The call from Democrats came the week after Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reached an agreement with Trump on the debt limit and government funding. 

Schumer said that Democrats will work with the president where they can, but also are "not going to abandon our principles.”

Most Senate Democrats signed a letter in August opposing any tax plan that cuts taxes for the rich, adds to the deficit or does not move through regular order. Schumer also said he would personally oppose legislation that repeals tax deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes.