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WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats on Wednesday rejected President Bush's call for permanent repeal of the estate tax, while Republicans signaled plans to turn the vote to their advantage in the fall campaign for control of Congress, The Associated Press reports.
The vote was 54-44, six short of the 60 required under Senate rules to approve the measure.
The President expressed disappointment in the decision. "It is wrong that, as a result of a quirk in the law, millions of Americans will be subject to the death tax beginning at the end of the decade," Bush said in a written statement. "The Congress must fix this unfair tax and provide families with certainty so they can plan for the future."
The repeal measure was passed by the House last week on a vote of 256-171 and drew the support of 41 Democrats.
Congress approved a phase-out of the estate tax last year as part of the major tax reduction that Bush pushed to passage in his first few months in office. To conform with Senate rules, though, the legislation expires on Dec. 31, 2010, meaning that the levy would be resurrected in 2011.
As a second act, Bush has prodded Congress to pass new legislation making the cuts permanent. The GOP-controlled House hastened to comply, first passing an overall repeal measure, and then, when Senate Democrats refused to schedule a vote, breaking the bill into pieces.