Democrats Admit GOP Will Win Child Tax Credit Fight in House

Posted June 12, 2003 at 1:47pm

The top House Democrat, discouraged by an unusual procedure Republicans will employ in their attempt to pass another tax package, conceded that her party most likely would not succeed in blocking the bill Thursday afternoon.

GOP leaders are “trying to drive a stake in the heart” of expanding the child tax credit, said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who argued that Republicans are pushing a bill they expect will die in conference committee.

With House Republicans pushing an $82 billion measure, Pelosi conceded the rule for House debate will make it extremely difficult to win acceptance of a Senate-passed — and White House-supported — $10 billion bill.

“I don’t think it’s ever going to happen,” Pelosi said of making the child tax credit refundable for lower-income families.

That’s because House passage of the plan crafted by Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) would force a conference committee, where the bill would likely get bogged down.

The Senate plan includes offsets; the Thomas measure does not. The House GOP bill not only makes the credit refundable for poorer families, it also extends the $1,000 child tax credit through 2010 and would allow families earning up to $150,000 to claim it.

House Democrats only want to make the credit refundable for low-wage-earning families and had hoped to attract enough disaffected moderate and conservative Republicans to kill the rule, allowing the House to then consider the Senate version.

But the House Rules Committee adopted a unique procedure to make that impossible. Instead of having two votes — one the rule and one on final passage — the rule is structured so that its passage would automatically trigger acceptance of the underlying bill — in this case, the Thomas plan.

“This is one of the most cynical and hypocritical moves I have ever seen,” Ways and Means ranking member Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) exhorted in a statement. “[Majority Leader] Tom DeLay [R-Texas] already has told the world that he does not want a child credit for poor families but now, having heard the anger of the American people, the House Republicans are claiming they do. Then, they come up with a parliamentary scheme to kill the bill,” he said.

Most Republicans and Democrats agree that this issue is too important to delay. The Senate passed the child tax credit by a vote of 94 to 2, the president has urged the House to pass the Senate bill, and the House should stop playing games and pass the Senate bill now,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) “There is no reason to pass $82 billion of debt onto our children when we can, and have, fixed this problem for a fraction of that.”

A DeLay spokesman said House Republicans are giving Democrats the opportunity to get the child tax credit they say they want.

They’re going to have the opportunity to vote up or down on the child tax credit,” Jonathan Grella said. “They can decide if this is about headlines or children.”