- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Action on the floors of both the House and Senate yesterday collapsed into symbolic partisan swipes over the Democrats’ demand that the chambers immediately consider bills to provide a $400-per-child refundable tax credit to 9 million low-income families.

In the House, when Republicans objected to the request, Democrats then blocked a pair of unrelated Republican-sponsored measures. Republicans retaliated by defeating a bill to honor former Democratic Sen. Birch Bayh, father of current Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat.

Then in the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, brought debate on the energy bill to a halt when he pulled his pending amendment on ethanol fuel additives, after Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat, tried to attach her own child-tax-credit amendment to the ethanol provision.

“It is quite a surprise to see an issue of tax significance being applied to an energy bill for the United States,” said Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The issue stems from a provision Democrats say Republicans dropped at the last minute from the $350 billion tax-cut package President Bush signed into law last week.

Under the 2001 tax cut, low-income families receive up to $600 per child. The new $350 billion tax-cut package advances the credit to $1,000, but only for families with income-tax liability. That, Democrats said, excludes 9 million families, including 12 million children, with reported incomes between $10,500 and $26,625 a year.

“What kind of perverse Robin Hoods steal secretly to rob from the poor to give to the rich?” asked Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Connecticut Democrat, who went to the floor to demand immediate action on her bill.

But Republicans objected.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said the tax-credit provision was never in the House bill or the president’s proposal. He also said he won’t bring up a stand-alone bill, so its supporters must pair it with another tax-cut bill with broad support among Republicans.

“To me it’s a little difficult to give tax relief to people that don’t pay income tax. It’s a spending program,” Mr. DeLay told reporters earlier in the day.

He also criticized those who are now pushing for the tax credit even though they voted against the broader tax bill.

Both of the two chief Senate sponsors of the tax credit, Mrs. Lincoln and Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, voted for the tax-cut bill in the Finance Committee but against it on the Senate floor. Both also voted against the final House-Senate conference agreement.

“If anybody’s to blame that it’s not in there, it’s those that voted against it over in the Senate,” Mr. DeLay said.

In the House, the bills that failed yesterday were on the “suspension calendar,” which means they are usually not contentious and require a two-thirds vote to pass. But with most Democrats voting against the two Republican-sponsored measures, they didn’t muster the two-thirds vote.

Republicans then retaliated by defeating a bill to rename a federal building in Indianapolis after the elder Mr. Bayh, a longtime Indiana senator who ran for president in 1976.

Yesterday’s three defeated bills can still be brought up later under a regular rule rather than the suspension calendar.

In the Senate, Mrs. Lincoln tried to bring up her child-credit bill but Republicans instead offered a bill that would go further, making the entire child tax credit permanent. The $1,000 credit is scheduled to revert to the 2001 level in 2006, then fully expire at the beginning of the next decade.

Mrs. Lincoln objected to that, so Republicans objected to her measure.

She then offered it as an amendment to Mr. Frist’s amendment on the energy bill, prompting Mr. Frist to pull his amendment. Republicans promised to try again on the energy bill today.

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