Child tax credit bill advances, but electoral politics tests its chances

Child tax credit bill advances, but electoral politics tests its chances

The House on Wednesday gave broad bipartisan approval to a $78 billion bill that would expand the child tax credit and restore a host of corporate tax breaks, a rare feat in an election year by a Congress that has made efforts to legislate.

The bill passed by a vote of 357 to 70, with top lawmakers from both parties pushing for passage of the first major bipartisan bill of the year in the House. Forty-seven Republicans and 23 Democrats voted against the bill.

But despite the uneven show of support, the measure faces a complicated path to enactment amid political divisions over who should benefit most. The effort, which faces resistance from Senate Republicans, is a test of whether a painfully narrowly divided Congress can counteract the dysfunction of the Republican-led House, put electoral politics aside and pass legislation that contains victories. for both parties.

Rep. Jason Smith, Republican of Missouri and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, defended the legislation as “pro-growth, pro-jobs and pro-America.”

“It is a strong, common-sense, bipartisan step forward to provide urgent tax relief to working families and small businesses,” Mr. Smith added.

The package It would expand the child tax credit, although it is a substantially reduced version of its pandemic-era level, and restore a set of business tax breaks related to research and development and capital expenditures. Both would last until 2025. It would also strengthen the low-income housing tax credit and extend tax benefits to disaster victims and Taiwanese businesses and individuals.

The plan would be funded by restricting the employee retention tax credit, a pandemic-era measure meant to encourage employers to keep workers on the payroll that has become a magnet for fraud.

Lawmakers from both parties see it as a political victory and a way to show voters that they can really get something done despite the chaos and turmoil that has come to define the Republican-led House.

“The majority of the country is very hungry for us to do things in a bipartisan way,” Rep. Greg Murphy, R-North Carolina, said in an interview. “We’ve seen a lot of gridlock because some people really want to, basically, say no to everything. And I think we need to move forward and show people that we can govern.”

In a sign of the political obstacles that are complicating the bill’s path, Johnson brought it to the floor Wednesday under special fast-track procedures that required a two-thirds majority for passage. The maneuver allowed him to bypass Republicans who might otherwise have blocked the bill over their policy and political objections.

Senate Republicans have also tried to put the brakes on it, in another indication of the political challenges the package still faces. The bill would be a victory for President Biden and Democrats, who have made expanding the child tax credit a signature issue, including Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who is up for re-election this year and is a key target. for Republicans in November.

Sen. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said Wednesday he still had concerns with the bill, including a provision that would allow parents to use the previous year’s income to claim a larger credit. , which, he argued, would discourage work and he wanted it amended in the Senate. Crapo and many other Senate Republicans previously voted for the same provision in previous bills.

“I’m sure there will be a number of issues, like those raised yesterday in the House, that were not resolved,” Crapo said. “My guess is that a lot of those types of problems will arise and we’ll have to solve them.”

A group of lawmakers from New York and other Democratic states with high tax rates were angry that the measure omitted an increase they had sought in the limit on state and local tax deductions, known as SALT, that would benefit higher earners. New York Republicans expressed their anger Tuesday by briefly blocking a procedural measure in protest.

“The point, as has been said several times in this Congress, is obviously that there is strength in numbers,” said Rep. Mike Lawler, who joined Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, Nick LaLota and Andrew Garbarino in defecting from the unrelated measure on Tuesday. , only to change their votes once their point had been made. “But for us who achieved the majority, this is the issue that matters.”

Johnson eased their concerns after a long night of meetings Tuesday by pledging to work with them to find a way to address SALT separately, said Athina Lawson, a spokeswoman for the speaker’s office.

The package that the House passed on Wednesday was negotiated by Congress’ two top tax writers: Mr. Smith and Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and chairman of the Finance Committee. He has the support of the White House, key leaders of both parties on Capitol Hill and a variety of rank-and-file members. It gained momentum after the Ways and Means Committee approved it in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner in January.

His defenders point to that vote, and how unlikely a tax deal seemed to happen, as a good sign for his prospects.

“Most forecasters would have said just a month ago that this bill was destined to die in negotiations or gather dust on a shelf if it were ever introduced,” Wyden said in a statement Wednesday. “Given the sorry state of our political climate, it is a true victory to have such strong momentum behind this bill that will help 16 million American children from low-income families get ahead.”

Republican advocates have argued that business tax breaks are worth accepting and have also portrayed the child tax credit as a conservative victory.

“The child tax credit reforms in this bill are pro-family policies that maintain the child tax credit structure of the Trump-era GOP tax reform,” Smith said in a statement. “The child tax credit provisions in this bill help families crushed by inflation, eliminate the penalty for families with multiple children, and maintain work requirements.”

The legislation would make the $2,000 per child credit more accessible to families with multiple children and would gradually increase the limit on how much low-income families can claim to match the amount for higher-income families. It would also automatically adjust the credit for inflation and allow parents to use the previous year’s income if it meant they could receive a larger credit.

Right-wing Republicans denounced the expansion, arguing that it would discourage work. They also opposed allowing undocumented immigrants who have children born in the United States to receive the credit, for which they are eligible under current law.

“I’m not going to support something that expands the child tax credit, which is vastly expanding the welfare state,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. “And I’m not going to support the child tax credit going to illegals. “I think that is fueling this illegal invasion, and we must remain united against it as the Republican Party.”

Progressive Democrats, on the other hand, argued that the bill did not expand the tax credit enough and disproportionately benefited corporations. It falls far short of the pandemic-era version of the child tax credit, which deposited up to $3,600 per child into families’ bank accounts and helped lift millions of children out of poverty.

“I cannot vote for an agreement that so lopsidedly benefits large corporations and at the same time does not guarantee a substantial tax cut for middle and working class families,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut said on the floor before the vote. , the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. . “This bill provides billions of dollars in tax relief for the rich and pennies for the poor.”

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John C. Johnson

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