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Senator Sellout | The Nation

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Senator Sellout

If left-liberal bloggers have any influence on the Democraticparty, they should use their muscle right now to block a grotesquesellout--handing Republicans an odious victory on the inheritance tax.

Giving the GOP its way would hand a fabulous reward to thecountry's wealthiest families but, worse than that, create a $1trillion hole in future federal revenue. If this happens, forgetabout universal health care or other major social reforms andpublic investment that Democrats are promising to pursue.

Yet leading the rush to appeasement is Senator Max Baucus ofMontana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee andthe party's number-one Quisling. Baucus tips over easily tooutrageous deals with Republican tax-cutters. Back in 2001, hesold out on Bush's reactionary tax reduction package. Now he isworking to organize a rump group of Democratic senators for"compromise" on the estate tax. That is, give the Republicansponsors most of what they seek and, in the process, cripplepossibilities for the future.

Democrats do not need do anything about the estate tax at thispoint since the Bush version expires automatically in 2011. Let thenext president decide what to recommend. For now, Dems merely needto hold the 40 votes to sustain a filibuster. The caucusoverwhelmingly supports that position. The problem is the handfulof potential deserters.

The first chore for activists is to bang on Baucus--quickly andmercilessly--because a Senate vote is expected next week. More tothe point, grassroots Democrats need to bang on the handful ofwobbly Democratic senators disposed to go along with SenatorSellout or flirting with the idea. These include the two Nelsons(Bill of Florida, Ben of Nebraska), Salazar of Colorado, Lincolnand Pryor of Arkansas and--most shocking--Washington's twousually progressive senators, Cantwell and Murray. Their stateincludes a bunch of techie billionaires and the family-ownedSeattle Times that hammers them on the supposed injustice of theestate tax. They need to know a price will be paid for defection.

The second great task for grassroots Dems is to confront the party leaders on their own cowardly acquiescence. Why do they allow this one disloyal rogue to undercut the party's position and yet escape any punitive consequences? If Democrats should win backSenate control this year, Baucus will become Finance Committee Chairman again--free do more outrageous tax favors for his wealthy pals.

The Democratic caucus and minority leader Harry Reid ought to informBaucus--right now--that, if he proceeds with this sellout, he canforget about ever being chairman again. The legislative fight maysound like inside baseball and it is, but this is a central test ofcharacter for the party. If incumbent Democrats are unwilling to upsettheir "club" by punishing this wayward jerk on such a decisive matter,then maybe the "club" deserves to retain its minority status.

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