As they search under the couch cushions for money to make their tax bill less costly — and ways to make it more politically appealing — Senate Republicans are considering what, for many of them, might have seemed unthinkable: reneging on their promise to abolish the estate tax. “I don’t think there’s the stomach to do a full repeal,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch said. And Sen. Susan Collins, a key vote on any tax bill, told Bloomberg News that she doesn’t think there’s any need to eliminate the tax. (She also said she doesn’t believe the top marginal rate should be lowered for individuals making more than $1 million a year.)
Instead, Roll Call reports, some GOP senators are considering doubling the exemption, currently $5.49 million for individuals or just under $11 million for couples (going up to $5.6 million and $11.2 million, respectively, in 2018). Doubling the limits would represent a major shift for Republicans on an oft-repeated promise, and it could disappoint some deep-pocketed donors and voters who think the tax is unfair. But such a move could also help blunt some criticism that the tax overhaul will be a windfall for the wealthy — though the increased limits would still represent a win for a tiny and very rich sliver of the population. It would also preserve a decent chunk of the $269 billion in revenue over 10 years that a full repeal would cost.
UPDATE: House Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly told conservative leaders Tuesday that the GOP bill would repeal the estate tax, but may phase it out in order to lose less revenue.