House Committee Chairman Says Clinton Stonewalled Congress on Death Tax

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

( - A top House Republican Friday accused President Bill Clinton and the House Democratic Leader, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) of arm twisting in order to sink an effort to abolish the federal tax on family estates and trusts.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-TX) said Clinton effectively "stonewalled" the House when it failed earlier this week to override the President's veto of the Death Tax Elimination Act, which would have ended federal taxes on estates, gifts and trusts by 2010.

The vote was 13 shy of the two-thirds majority necessary to override Clinton's veto. Thirteen Democrats who voted in favor of the legislation when it passed the House last June flip-flopped Thursday and voted against the override.

Archer thinks those Democrats succumbed to pressure. "They clearly caved in to the political pressure of the White House and the Minority Leader. I'm not going to make a judgment as to why people can be inconsistent. I supposed their voting public will do that," Archer told reporters in a conference call Friday.

However, Archer believes the Congress may have set a historical precedent by passing the Death Tax Elimination Act earlier this year.

"It is historic that the Congress for the first time since the Death Tax was put on the books, has voted in both Houses to repeal it. So, the Congress, legislatively, has done all that under our Constitution it has the power to do. I think it's remarkable that over 50 Democrats in the House resisted the arm twisting and voted to override the President. I thought that was a very, very positive movement in the right direction," Archer said.

Archer doesn't foresee any more action on the Death Tax Elimination Act during this session of Congress.

"We have done all we can do in this Congress, legislatively. The President has stonewalled a bipartisan initiative once again and under our Constitution that becomes the end of it," Archer said.

President Clinton, in a statement, said he was happy the House failed to override his veto.

"This is a misguided bill that provides a huge tax cut for the most well-off Americans at the expense of working families. It is a key ingredient of a Republican tax plan that would leave nothing for Social Security, Medicare, education, or a voluntary, affordable prescription drug benefit," Clinton said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Republicans are expected next week to try to override Clinton's veto of the marriage penalty. That bill is designed to reduce taxes for married couples. Clinton and most Democrats oppose that bill as well, saying it would cut taxes for couples who are not actually affected by the marriage penalty, including couples that now pay less filing jointly than they would as single taxpayers.