Cheers to the Senate Democrats for defeating a measure tonight that basically amounted to legislative extortion. Republicans, most of whom have staunchly opposed Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage (and voted against raising it just over a month ago), attached a $2.00 an hour minimum wage hike to the permanent repeal of the estate tax (dubbed the "death tax" by opponents). The repeal would eliminate the tax on estates worth up to $5 million and drastically reduce the tax on estates worth up to $25 million (currently estates worth up to $2 million are spared the tax as are family-owned farms regardless of their worth). Previous attempts to permanently repeal the estate tax have continually failed, leaving the issue hopelessly stalled in the Senate. This is where the extortion comes in.
Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage is costing the party politically in the run up to the mid-term elections, as almost 83% of Americans support such an increase. So in a purely political move, Republicans threw the minimum wage increase into a bill that would have repealed the estate tax (something Democrats vehemently oppose). The idea was to force Democrats to vote against the minimum wage proposal in order to nullify any political advantage Democrats enjoyed on the issue. If, by some miracle, the measure passed, then Republicans would at least have secured a major political coup in repealing the tax and could also campaign on having raised the mininum wage they really didn't want to raise.
Democrats wisely didn't take the bait. Raising the mininum wage should be done on its own merit. We should not have to accept a misguided federal tax policy that centers on preserving aristocratic estates in order to give those scraping by on minimum wage a long awaited cost of living increase.