The U.S. House late Wednesday passed legislation that would modestly expand the child tax credit for low-income families while reviving significant business tax breaks, a trade-off that some progressive lawmakers rejected as far too lopsided in favor of corporations.
The Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024 passed the House in an overwhelming 357 to 70 vote, with 169 Republicans and 188 Democrats supporting the measure.
Nearly all of the 23 House Democrats who voted against the bill are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a roughly 100-member coalition whose chair backed the $78 billion legislation.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said following Wednesday’s vote that she opposed the bill because it is “deeply inequitable—at a time when we have seen the greatest rise in inequality with the biggest corporations making super profits at the expense of the consumer.”
The American Prospect‘s David Dayen has estimated that “in the time period when all the tax credits are actually in place, the business tax changes are five times more costly than the CTC changes.”
“It is a mockery of who representative government works for,” DeLauro argued. “This bill delivers massive tax cuts for the biggest corporations while denying middle class families the economic security they had under the expanded, monthly child tax credit. This is a reversal of the largest middle-class tax cut in history. The bill provides millions of dollars in tax relief for the wealthy and pennies for the poor.”
Unlike the 2021 child tax credit expansion that eliminated the program’s regressive phase-in and drove the U.S. child poverty rate down to a record low before expiring at the end of that year, the legislation passed by the House on Wednesday would exclude families with less than $2,500 in annual income—the very poorest.
The bill, which now heads to the closely divided U.S. Senate, would also not restore the monthly payments that families received under the 2021 expansion. Eligible families would claim the CTC when filing their annual tax returns.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated that the CTC changes in the House-passed bill would benefit around 16 million children in low-income families and lift around 400,000 kids out of poverty in the first year of enactment.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), a CPC member who voted against the legislation, said that while she welcomes the bill’s improvements to the CTC and the low-income housing tax credit, the measure “makes compromises that I cannot accept.”
In a scathing statement ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said that “the richest 120,000 households would get a larger share of the tax benefits than the bottom 88 million families” during the bill’s first year.
“The poorest 20% of families would receive just $60 on average, while the richest .1% get an average of $57,530 in tax breaks,” said Tlaib, pointing to research by the Tax Policy Center. “Meta—a company making tens of billions in profits—would see its effective tax rate drop from 25% to -2% under this bill. Working families in my district should never be paying higher taxes than the richest companies on Earth.”
Other Democrats, including CPC chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), similarly criticized the bill’s corporate tax giveaways but argued that the benefits for children warranted a yes vote.
“While I find this trade-off troubling and I strongly believe that we need to do everything possible to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share, this vote was for the working families in Seattle and communities across the country who will benefit from an expanded CTC, and I recommit myself to ensuring that we fully fund the CTC to the benefit of as many people as possible when Democrats are back in control of the House,” Jayapal said in a statement.
The bill’s prospects in the narrowly Democratic Senate are uncertain, and Republicans could wield the chamber’s 60-vote filibuster to tank the legislation.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) suggested that GOP senators could oppose the bill to deny President Joe Biden an election-year legislative victory.
“I think passing a tax bill that makes the president look good—may allow checks before the election—means that he can be reelected and then we won’t extend the 2017 tax cuts,” Grassley said, referring to Trump-era tax breaks for the rich.
Republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).