Today, the House passed the Estate Tax Repeal Act, H.R. 2143.  The following is a statement from Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on the circumstances surrounding his decision to vote against its passage, breaking with his previous support of the repeal.  

“Fiscal responsibility must be a guiding principle of our government.  My constituents have told me again and again that government must live within its means and balance the budget.  I agree and have consistently fought for more fiscal discipline.

“That is why I am voting against permanent repeal of the estate tax.  I have always supported estate tax cuts - I authored legislation to completely eliminate the estate tax for all family farms and businesses, and have consistently voted to cut and even eliminate it altogether in years past.

“However, this vote today is simply another step down the path of fiscal irresponsibility.  In the past year and a half, our economy has been in recession and was further damaged by the terrorist attacks surrounding September 11.   Instead of responding with tough choices and fiscal discipline, however, Congress and the Administration have responded by passing a $15 billion airline bailout bill, a $30 billion supplemental appropriations bill, a very wasteful and bloated farm bill, and a tax cut that will cost $2 trillion over the next ten years.  Even though I voted against these things, the truth is that they have all been signed into law by the President or will be very soon, and so their fiscal impact is now a reality and must be taken into account.

“There has been no serious effort by Congressional Leaders or the White House to design and implement a bipartisan balanced budget plan.  The result has been a staggering reversal from the once-large budget surplus projections to large budget deficit projections.  Budget deficits mean that we use Social Security and Medicare revenues for other programs, putting us in a terrible position to deal with the entitlement crises that are coming in a decade due to demographic changes and the escalating costs of health care.  We are falling further and further into debt, and interest payments on that debt will eat up an increasingly large share of taxpayer dollars - currently about 12 cents of each tax dollar.

“We’re moving in the wrong direction, and I cannot vote for legislation that will have such a large fiscal impact on our budget without a corresponding plan to return to fiscal discipline and get our budget balanced again within the next few years.  Let me be clear: if the permanent repeal of the estate tax were part of a long-term balanced budget strategy, I would support it.  Unfortunately, in this context, it is one more example of Congress and the Administration’s lack of fiscal responsibility, and I cannot support it at this time.”