Divisions among Democrats are undermining President Barack Obama’s push to raise the U.S. estate tax on inherited wealth, just weeks before the arrival of the “fiscal cliff” could drive the present estate tax rate even higher than Obama proposes. …

Obama wants to raise the rate to 45 percent after a $3.5 million exemption. If the Bush rates are allowed to expire and Congress does nothing, the rate will shoot up next year to the pre-Bush levels of 55 percent after a $1 million exemption.

New York Senator Charles Schumer on Thursday said the Democrats’ proposal to avert the “fiscal cliff” involves $1 trillion in immediate deficit reduction that includes new revenue from raising the estate tax to the level proposed by Obama.

No less a power broker than Democratic Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said this week, however, that he wants to hold the estate tax steady at current rates.