House Republicans pushed a new $82 billion tax cut through the chamber yesterday that would guarantee the $1,000-per-child tax credit remains in place through 2010.
The move is the latest exchange in an ongoing battle over President Bush’s tax-cut proposal, which was signed into law last month. But even as the president was signing the law, critics demanded that Congress revisit it to extend the increased child tax credit to low-income families that don’t earn enough to pay income tax.
House Republicans’ bill did that, but also would make the tax credit — which currently is slated to rise from $600 up to $1,000, then drop to $700 in 2006 before increasing to $1,000 again — stable at $1,000 per child through 2010. Republicans said the vote offered a clear choice.
“This is a big one. This bill really crystallizes the differences between the two parties,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. “We’re here to answer one question — do you support a $1,000 child tax credit, or do you not support it?”
The vote, on a rule for debate that automatically deems the tax cut passed in the House, passed 224-201 with nine Democrats supporting it and nine Republicans voting against it.
Democrats said that Republicans, because they were afraid their bill would fail on a straight up-or-down vote, constructed the rules of debate so there was no vote on Democrats’ preferred alternative, the $10 billion version passed 94-2 in the Senate last week.
Democrats said Republicans passed their version rather than the Senate version so that the entire matter can die in a conference committee between the House and Senate.
“Let there be no mistake — with this rule the GOP leadership wants to send this legislation into conference committee, where it hopes to tie up the bill and watch it die a slow death,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat.
The Senate bill’s $10 billion total was covered by extending customs duties scheduled to expire. The House bill, though, had no offsets, causing Democrats to predict an ever-growing debt that will be passed to children the tax cut is based on.
“I don’t think you should dare call yourselves fiscal conservatives,” said Rep. Gene Taylor, Mississippi Democrat. “I think what you should call yourselves is the seeds of destruction for the greatest nation this world has ever known.”
The bill’s fate is less clear in the Senate, whose limited bill covers only the 6.5 million families excluded because they don’t earn enough income. The Senate bill is offset by extension of expiring customs duties, while the House bill has no offsetting tax or revenue increases or spending cuts.
A group of four senators yesterday said they will insist the House bill be offset by spending cuts or tax increases. The group includes Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat, and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, who have been most vocal in calling for the provisions to be extended to low-income families, though neither they nor the other two senators in the group voted for the original tax cut on the Senate floor.
Earlier this week White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer called for the House to pass the Senate bill.
Democrats yesterday frequently pointed to Mr. Fleischer’s remarks in chiding Republicans and answering their charge that Democrats are just playing politics.
“Is the president of the U.S. playing politics when he said he would sign the Senate bill, and urged us to pass it?” Mr. Hoyer said.
House Republicans have let the administration know they were displeased with Mr. Fleischer’s remarks.
Yesterday the administration released a terse statement of policy endorsing House passage of the bill and quick action to get something on the president’s desk. But the shortness of the message underscored ongoing differences of opinion among the House, the Senate and the president.