Kyl Threatens To Block Unemployment Benefits To Push Tax Cut For Multi-Millionaires

Yesterday, I asked whether or not Senate Republicans would help expedite the process of extending unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of the month, since the last time that an extension was considered, the GOP blocked it for weeks with non-related amendments, before the bill ultimately passed by an overwhelming 98-0 vote.

Well, it seems like at least one Republican is not, in fact, going to ensure that unemployed workers keep their benefits without first trying to cut taxes for the heirs of multi-millionaires:

On Wednesday, a top Republican leader said a deal on the bill would depend on working out the fate of the expired estate tax…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.

“I will insist on an agreement on how to proceed [on the estate tax], if we’re going to have unanimous consent on how to proceed with any of these subsequent bills,” said Kyl.

This is a fairly shocking admission of priorities. 1.1 million workers are scheduled to have their unemployment benefits expire in the next month, with 2.7 million on track to lose them by April, while unemployment is still at 9.7 percent and there are six unemployed workers for every job opening. 6.3 million Americans have been unemployed for six months or longer, which is the most since the government began keeping track in 1948 and “more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s.” Yet Kyl is willing to hold unemployment benefits hostage in order to fashion a tax cut for heirs of the very wealthiest estates.

Due to a Bush-era budgeting gimmick, the estate tax is currently expired, but it is set to come back in 2011 at the Clinton-era level, which Kyl has an intense interest in preventing. His proposal to slash the estate tax rate and increase its exemption would cost $250 billion over ten years, with 99 percent of the benefit going to the heirs of multi-millionaires. Under 2009 law, only 0.2 percent of estates are subject to the estate tax at all.

And it’s partially Kyl’s fault that the expiration happened at all. Back in December, Democrats tried to put in place a temporary extension that would have prevented the tax’s expiration. But Kyl, along with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), blocked it in order to advocate for repealing the tax entirely.