The Senate this week chose to take a moderate approach to reducing estate taxes.
Members of the Senate voted 97-1 Wednesday to approve a measure that could lead Congress to continue the estate tax rate at 2009 levels starting in 2010.
Under current law, the top estate tax rate will be 45% in 2009, and the exemption will be $3.5 million per person. But the estate tax is supposed to spring back to pre-2001 levels after 2010, when the estate tax provision in Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 is set to expire.
In the past, life insurance groups have supported estate tax proposals using the 2009 estate tax figures.
The amendment approved, Amendment Number 492, was introduced by Sen. Max Baucus, R-Mont.
Baucus attached the amendment to the 5-year budget resolution, a document that is supposed to guide Congress when it starts budget negotiations later this year.
The Senate passed the budget resolution today by a 52-47 vote.
Although the budget resolution does not directly affect appropriations, Senate rules let appropriations bills that follow budget resolution guidelines pass the Senate via majority votes.
Under regular order, a bill needs 60 votes to get through the Senate without running the risk of facing a filibuster.