Clinton Vetoes Bill to Eliminate Death Tax

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - As expected, President Clinton Thursday vetoed the Death Tax Elimination Act. Many in Congress, however, are threatening to override Clinton's veto when they return to Washington next week.

Clinton argued during a White House ceremony, that despite the bill's appearances, he was right to veto the measure.

"I believe that this latest estate tax bill is another example where Congress comes up with something that sounds good and looks real good coming down the street on a tractor," Clinton said, referring to Montana rancher Lynn Cornwell, who a week ago rode his tractor up to the White House to deliver the bill to Clinton.

"I believe that this estate tax bill is part of a series of actions and commitments, that when you add it all up, would take us to the bad old days of deficits, high interest rates and have no money to invest in our common future," Clinton said.

Clinton also criticized the overall Republican tax-cutting strategy.

"Last year, the Republicans passed a huge tax bill in one quick shot. It was like a cannonball, it was too heavy to fly. So it went away. But they're still committed to it. This year, they have a strategy that, in a way more clever, it's like a snowball and every piece of it sounds good. But, when it keeps rolling, it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Unless someone stops it, the snowball will turn into an avalanche," Clinton said.

Clinton continued, "This bill suffered the inevitable fate of a snowball in August. I vetoed not because I don't think there should be any estate tax changes. I do believe there should be some changes. This particular bill is wrong for our families and wrong for our future. It fails the test of the future, both on the grounds of fairness and fiscal responsibility."

House Republicans vow to fight back. Representative J.C. Watts (R-OK) called Clinton's veto, "a sad day for tax fairness in America and the family farms and small businesses that have helped make this economy great."

"Mister President, this legislation was important to people like Montana rancher Lynn Cornwell. He delivered this legislation and his plea for death tax relief to you in a tractor last week. Sadly, you and Vice President Gore turned your back on Lynn and thousands of farmers and small business owners like him, and fully embraced big government instead," Watts said in a statement.

Watts continued, "Next week, Congress will vote to correct this mistake, to provide death tax relief and strengthen American families. I urge my colleagues to override this veto in the best interests of farmers, small businesses, and the entire nation."

65 House Democrats and 9 Senate Democrats voted to repeal the estate tax, and the Clinton veto may be especially difficult for Gore to explain since the entire Congressional delegation from his home state of Tennessee, including Democratic Convention Keynote Speaker Harold Ford Junior, voted to repeal the tax.

The bill would repeal the estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax within 10 years.