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Kyl Puts Up “Tax Cuts For Rich Heirs NOW” Banner Up In Senate

Jon Kyl, last seen saying today at the health care summit that insurance shouldn’t cover more than 40% of your medical costs, wants to block an extension of unemployment benefits until the Senate deal with the estate tax:

Senate Democrats have found Republican support elusive for a forthcoming bill that would include year-long extensions of expired tax provisions, long-term unemployment coverage and health insurance subsidies for jobless workers. On Wednesday, a top Republican leader said a deal on the bill would depend on working out the fate of the expired estate tax. The GOP also might raise “pay-as-you-go” issues.

Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said that Republicans will block consideration of the new bill unless they get “a path forward fairly soon” on the estate tax. The tax lapsed at the end of 2009, and if Congress does not act, it will return in 2011 with much higher rates and lower exemptions than most lawmakers want.

In fact, just to put some numbers to that, if the estate tax is restored at 2009 rates, which is what some in the Senate want (although Kyl probably wants to just repeal it outright), it will cost the American taxpayer $238 BILLION, with a B, dollars over 10 years. So much for fiscal discipline.

Last night, Harry Reid tried to get unanimous consent to move a quick bill to extend unemployment and the COBRA subsidies for a short amount of time, just to offer more time to work on a bigger bill. Republicans rejected that. While a short extension would cause a lot of confusion, it’s infinitely preferable to letting unemployment lapse completely. Reid ultimately wants a one-year extension of both safety-net provisions, but that’s unlikely to happen in three days, when both expire.

Republicans and Democrats were fine with passing a one-year extension of the Patriot Act, with no new privacy provisions, by a unanimous voice vote last night.

The three sections of the Patriot act that would stay in force:

• Authorize court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones.

• Allow court-approved seizure of records and property in anti-terrorism operations.

• Permit surveillance against a so-called “lone wolf,” a non-U.S. citizen engaged in terrorism who may not be part of a recognized terrorist group.

Seems to me that if Democrats really wanted to play hardball, he would have objected to Patriot Act extensions unless they were paired with safety-net extensions. But then, “Democrats” and “hardball” would be in the same sentence.

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Here's my blow by blow of the first half or third of the health care summit.

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David Dayen

David Dayen