WASHINGTON – The Senate rejected Republican efforts Thursday to repeal the estate tax, but GOP leaders promised to try again before this election year is over. “Wiping this vicious tax from the books is a matter of principle,” said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Those opposed to the bill said it would deliver an unwise tax cut when the government needed more money to balance its budget and to wage war. “This bill has nothing to do with the average American,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. “It is about the wealthiest people in America flexing their muscles and pushing through on Capitol Hill the most outrageous piece of special-interest legislation in modern memory.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Senators voted 57-41 to advance the bill, but that was three votes short of the 60 needed to overcome objections from a majority of Democrats and a pair of Republicans. “We got very close, but close doesn’t count,” said Robert Bennett, R-Utah. Republicans staged the vote knowing they did not have the 60 votes to prevail on repealing the tax, a top priority of many GOP voters. Some of the tax’s biggest critics had hoped they could attract a few extra votes by extending a cooperative hand to Democrats. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., proposed an alternative that would have relieved more estates from taxation by letting an individual’s estate worth $5 million or a couple’s worth $10 million escape taxation. That exclusion would increase each year to keep pace with inflation. Most estates exceeding that size would be taxed at capital-gains rates. The very largest, when exceeding $30 million, would be taxed at 30 percent.