WASHINGTON ― Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he won’t vote for the latest version of the Republican tax bill unless leaders make it more generous for low-income families with children.
“I can’t in good conscience support it,” Rubio told reporters on Thursday.
Since Senate Democrats unanimously oppose the legislation, Republicans can lose only two votes in the chamber and still pass their bill. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) opposed an earlier version of the measure.
Throughout debate on the legislation, Rubio has advocated for an expanded child tax credit as part of the tax code overhaul. The heart of the bill is a big tax cut for corporations and individuals, especially wealthy ones, with the revenue loss partially offset by repealing deductions, including one that benefits families with children.
Republicans said they would offset the loss of that deduction ― called the personal exemption ― with an expanded child tax credit. The Senate version of the bill would double the value of the child credit to $2,000 and allow much wealthier households to claim it. The cutoff threshold would move from $110,000 in annual income to $500,000 (down from an earlier proposed $1 million threshold).
“If you make $40,000, we can’t find the money to increase the child tax credit? But if you make a million a year, we can?” Rubio asked rhetorically on Wednesday.
Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) want a more progressive change. Currently, the credit is only partially refundable, meaning if it pushes a family’s tax bill beneath zero, they can’t necessarily get the full value of the credit as cash. Rubio and Lee want all or most of the expanded credit to be refundable, and for parents to be able to count payroll taxes taken out of their wages against their taxable income. That way, more could get cash payments from the refundable credit.
Lee said Wednesday he thought he and Rubio would get their way. Lee’s office said Thursday he remains “undecided” on whether to support the bill.
Asked about Rubio’s concerns on Thursday, President Donald Trump predicted the senator would go along.
“I think he’ll get there. He’s really been a great guy, very supportive,” Trump told reporters during an event at the White House. “I think that Sen. Rubio will be there, very shortly.”
Rubio is using a strategy that other senators used before. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) withheld support from the Senate bill earlier this month, received the concessions for businesses he wanted, and then supported the measure.
Corker opposed the Senate bill because of how much it would add to the government’s budget deficit. On Wednesday, he spoke positively about the compromise measure House and Senate GOP tax writers have been crafting, but added that he is reserving judgment until he sees the final product. The compromise is expected to be released on Friday, pending last-minute changes.
“The concerns I’ve had about deficit spending at a time when it’s unnecessary to do, I still have,” Corker said.
Expanding the child tax credit could make the bill even more expensive, but Republicans have already shown willingness to set expiration dates for some of the tax cuts. That would make the bill less expensive, at least theoretically.
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