WASHINGTON -- By now you've probably read or heard that the Senate on June 12 rejected a measure to repeal permanently the federal estate tax, effective in 2011, and that Democrats are to blame.
What you may not have read or heard is that senators on the same day also rejected an alternative designed to exempt family-owned businesses, including many car dealers, from the tax, effective next year.
Republicans, who say they want to protect family-owned businesses, provided most of the votes to kill that alternative.
So there is blame to go around for the continued sorry state of the law governing the federal taxes owed when someone, such as an auto dealer, with assets of more than $1 million dies.
The real fault is the extreme partisanship that infects almost every issue that comes up in Congress these days. Take energy, for example. The top House Republican on the issue and the top Senate Democrat on the subject have been fighting over who is going to chair an upcoming conference committee on competing energy bills. They include important auto fuel-economy provisions. So even though energy widely is regarded as an urgent national security issue, prospects for compromise are not promising.
Likewise on the estate tax: Chances of a near-term compromise to fix the mess are next to zero.