White House and Senate Democrats eye child tax credit Hail Mary
The White House is engaging with Senate Democrats about making one last push for an enhanced child tax credit this year — and in return for GOP votes, may dangle support for corporate tax credits for research and development that expired last year, Axios has learned.
Why it matters: Some Democrats see a year-end legislative horse-trade as their last chance to enshrine some version of President Biden’s enhanced child tax credit into law before Republicans take one — or both — chambers of Congress.
- A compromise package would require 60 votes in the Senate, meaning that at least 10 Republicans would need to support it without any Democratic defections.
- In response to the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, some Republican senators, including Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have been floating pro-family policies, including a cheaper and less expansive version of Biden's child tax credit.
But, but, but: A Hail Mary tax package would face not only a ticking congressional clock but also potential opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — who may not be willing to support more deficit spending.
Context: Republicans and Manchin let Biden’s one-year child tax credit, which provided families with up to $3,600 per child, expire at the end of 2021.
- After some discussions about lowering the income caps and including it in a slimmed-down version of Build Back Better, the tax credit ultimately didn't make it into the Inflation Reduction Act that Biden signed into law in August.
- To lower the costs of his 2017 corporate tax cuts, President Trump covered only four years of the R&D credits, putting an expiration date on tax incentives that had long been in place for corporations.
- Republicans were banking on a future Congress to extend them, but 2021 passed without any action and they lapsed. Business groups have been looking for opportunities all year to restore them.
Driving the news: Biden officials have been in quiet conversations with Democratic senators, including Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) — one of the child tax credit's main champions — to discuss how to get a deal.
- “It is a priority for the White House and it's absolutely a priority for me,” Bennet told Axios. "We should have never allowed it to sunset, and I think we can find a way at the end of the year."
- "I would be very reluctant for us to extend things like the R&D tax credit for business enterprises, without extending this important tax cut for working families," he said. "And I hope we can come to an agreement on that."
The big picture: Congress will return to Washington after November’s election for a lame-duck session, in which funding the government, and potentially a debt-ceiling package, will be atop the agenda.
- But taking action on a child tax credit is clearly a priority for Democrats, who feel they have found a potential point of leverage over Republicans, according to Business Insider.
Between the lines: If Democrats retain control of both chambers — and pad their majority in the Senate — there will be less urgency to fiddle with the tax code this year.
- Biden will want to use a potential 2023 budget reconciliation package to revive many of his Build Back Better priorities that were vetoed by Manchin.
- The Senate’s initial $3.5 trillion dollar legislation, with fresh funding to dramatically expand the social safety net, was ultimately trimmed to a $740 billion package that only included new money for climate, health care and the IRS.
What they're saying: "I've got a proposal that has a good deal of support on our side of the aisle,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told Axios. "I have not really socialized it yet on the other side of the aisle.”
- "I've had conversations with the White House," Romney said. "They say they have interest and we'd like to chat about it."
- “Would I like there to be a deal? Absolutely," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). “I think they are both good policies."
- "I am for both the child tax credit and I'm for the R&D," said Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
- "We're simply not going to help business, help big corporations, without helping the child tax credit," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). "This administration is full in on this."
Be smart: Bennet, who is facing a stiff challenge from moderate Republican Joe O'Dea, would love to have movement on the child tax credit before the election to help motivate his progressive base.
- But he’s realistic about the short-term prospects: "I don't think plausibly it will be done before my election," he said.
Editor's note: Additional context has been added on the history of the R&D tax credits.