November 15, 2017
“I don’t know if I can live on my income or not,” comic strip writer Bob Thaves joked. “The government won’t let me try it.” But Republicans might, if their twin tax plans can survive the twists and turns of a House and Senate debate. A good House plan got even better, thanks to House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who heeded conservatives’ concerns and honed the language on the Johnson Amendment, adoption tax credit, and marriage penalties. After some thoughtful revisions, his bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is headed to the floor as early as tomorrow.
If there’s trouble ahead, House leaders are confident it won’t be on their side of the Capitol. “It’s probably the most unified we’ve been in a while,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) told reporters about Thursday’s vote. “We all have our issues, and we know the Senate is going to do something different. But I think everyone is very focused, and we know we need to get this thing done.”
Collins was right about the Senate doing something different. Late yesterday, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that Republicans were tweaking their bill to take on an old foe: the Obamacare individual mandate. In a major departure from their first draft (and the House plan), GOP leaders decided this was the perfect time to attack the IRS’s punishment for Americans who refuse to buy insurance. In doing so, Hatch argued, “We not only ease the financial burdens already associated with the mandate, but also generate additional revenue to provide more tax relief to [middle-class] individuals.” The benefits are two-fold: taxpayers aren’t fined for making a personal decision about health care, and the Senate has more money to offset other tax reforms.
That’s key for Republicans, who unlike the House, are working under much stricter budget rules. Under the reconciliation process (which lets them pass the bill with a simple majority instead of the regular 60), GOP leaders have to find a way to “pay for” their plan, and zapping the individual mandate would free up about $338 billion over the next 10 years. Senator Hatch knows that if fewer people are forced to buy insurance, then fewer people will be applying for federal subsidies to pay for it. That saves GOP leaders a lot of money, which it’s decided to use for an even better causes: like the child tax credit.
Thanks to the persistence of Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the modified Senate bill doubles the child tax credit to $2,000 from the initial $1,650. FRC, along with other conservatives, had been pushing for this increase for months. Now, that work is paying off. “Good news for working families,” Rubio tweeted. “The Senate #TaxCut bill now has #ChildTaxCredit at 2K. We are making progress.” Hopefully, the GOP finds a way to make the change permanent, since the text, as it’s currently written under reconciliation rules, would expire in 2025.
The Left’s pro-abortion crowd has gone hysterical over an education tax deduction, the ability of expectant parents’ to contribute to their future children’s education. The Left insists that this is some radical new way of undermining abortion, which is interesting since it has nothing to do with it. Yet still, NARAL calls it “dangerous” to let families save for college early. Affirming this language, claims Ilyse Hogue would “lay the foundation for ‘personhood,’ the idea that life begins at conception thus granting a fetus in utero legal rights.” But guess what? That foundation was already laid in the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which, Hogue may be interested to know, uses the same terminology.
As most people know, the real debate on these provisions will be in three weeks or so, when the two chambers conference together and hash out their differences. Until then, Americans will watch and wait -- hoping, as we all do, that Republicans can finally offer families some much-needed relief from Uncle Sam.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.