- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The Treasury Department will begin mailing $400-per-child checks to 25 million taxpaying families this week, and Democrats are putting on a full-court press to force Republicans to extend the credits to 6.5 million families who don’t earn enough to pay income taxes.

With Congress preparing to leave Washington for summer recess, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said without action this week those low-income families will have to wait months before getting checks.

“All of the legislation that is before Congress this week can be considered later except the child tax credit,” Mr. Hoyer said. “If it is not passed now, essentially it will delay [the checks] by two months, probably longer.”

The $350 billion tax-cut package passed earlier this year raised the per-child tax credit by $400, and directed that expected checks for the 2003 tax year be mailed out this summer. But the package didn’t include funds for the low-income families.

The Senate then passed a $10 billion bill to cover 6.5 million lower-income families and their 12 million children, but the House Republicans countered with a $80 billion bill that extends the $400-per-child credit through 2010 for all families, rather than let it expire after 2004 as the Senate bill calls for.

“Our members voted for this bill. The Democrats voted against the bill. Our members are saying to us it is really important to extend these child tax credits to 2010,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. “It is important to those members, and I’m not sure we could compromise, at least to that extent, and satisfy our members when we bring it back to the floor.”

The House and Senate appointed negotiators a month and a half ago to work out the differences, but they have yet to meet.

Yesterday, the Senate Republican negotiators proposed extending the credit through 2007, but said the House should consider offsetting the tax cuts with spending cuts, raised taxes or fee increases.

“Those are all things that have broad support. And we have offered those as consideration to the House conferees,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and Senate Finance Committee chairman.

Mr. DeLay called the proposal “very interesting,” but said it “still doesn’t answer the questions of where do these kids go after the deadline is met.” House Republicans have also opposed offsetting the tax cuts with other tax or fee increases, arguing that it defeats the purpose of the cuts.

Democrats want offsets, said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, calling it “the fiscally responsible thing to do,” though adding that his party has “a great deal of interest” in Mr. Grassley’s proposal.

Meanwhile, Democrats are doing their best to raise the profile of the issue and force House Republicans to act.

Mr. Daschle and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, will hold a rally today to press for action, and House Democrats have promised to try to force action on the floor through parliamentary maneuvers.

So far, though, similar efforts have failed.

Democrats have offered a half-dozen nonbinding motions urging the House negotiators to accept the low-income provisions without including the rest of the tax cut. While the first motion passed June 12, Republicans have defeated every subsequent motion.

Now Democrats and their allies are taking the issue to the airwaves. The Center for Community Change began running a television ad yesterday in English in Washington and in Spanish in Texas, Florida and California saying 1 million military families are left out without the low-income provisions, as are 4.1 million Hispanic children.

“Some children aren’t as important to the Bush administration. Like the children of 1 million military families — they get nothing. 4.1 million Hispanic children. The children of our nurses, teachers assistants — nothing,” the ad says.

The president supports extending the tax credit to low-income families and has called on the House and Senate to work out their differences.

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