It’s not every day that good news comes out of Congress, but last night the United States Senate made firm progress on tax reform that included a strong bipartisan message that the final legislation must include real tax relief for working families.
Make no mistake: Any tax reform legislation that is produced this year will do so largely along partisan lines. That is why the Senate’s passage of a budget resolution last night was so important for tax reform. It checked the first box in the budget reconciliation process created by the 1974 Congressional Budget Act that allows the Senate to pass certain budget-related legislation by a simple majority vote.
Now the House must either pass the same budget the Senate did last night, or go to conference to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and the House budget that passed earlier this month. However, all signs point to the House just voting on the Senate budget as is.
After the House passes the Senate budget, it will again be the House’s turn to initiate by introducing actual tax reform legislation. We got a glimpse of what that legislation will look like last month when the White House released its nine-page tax reform outline.
As we mentioned in September, that outline was a good start, but it also left one key policy area unclear: the size of an expected child tax credit expansion.
This is potentially a huge problem for tax reform since the most recent draft would eliminate the personal exemption, a tax provision that benefits many working families. According to analyses of the current tax outline, millions of working families could be facing a tax hike, not a tax cut.
That is not what President Trump or the Republican Party promised their voters.
Luckily, there is a simple fix to this problem, it is popular across party lines, and it received a unanimous vote of confidence in the Senate last night.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and I introduced an amendment to last night’s budget resolution that created a “deficit neutral reserve fund” for future legislation that would increase per-child tax relief by amending the existing child tax credit.
In practical terms, this only made it slightly easier for an expanded child tax credit to become law. However, the unanimous bipartisan nature of the vote sent a strong signal to the House and White House that a robust child tax credit is central to getting tax reform done. Better yet, the child tax credit may be just the right policy to convince one or two red-state Democrats to vote with Republicans for tax relief.