The Senate yesterday rejected a proposal by Jim DeMint (R-SC) to permanently abolish the estate tax, 39-59. Two Democrats (Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE)) supported the bill; three Republicans (Susan Collins (ME), Olympia Snowe (ME), George Voinovich (OH)) opposed it.
There is not, however, any consensus on a particular estate tax reform. The status quo is that the estate tax, which is suspended this year unless retroactive legislation changes this fact, will return with a vengeance with higher rates and smaller exemptions than it has had for almost a decade in 2011.
Multiple attempts to pass compromise bills have failed. The Administration and most Democrats in Congress support a proposal to effectively make the 2009 estate tax laws permanent with some minor tweaking, but this has not received enough support to become law.
Once upon a time, I believed that Congress was sure to act before 2010. Now, I'm not at all sure what it will do.