WASHINGTON — Some higher income families would be eligible to receive a child tax credit on their federal returns under a bill approved in the House last week.
The legislation would allow married couples to claim the $1,000-per-child credit if they earn less than $150,000 a year. The current income cap is $110,000. The credit also would be indexed to keep pace with inflation.
“It is time we make some simple improvements to the child tax credit, so it keeps up with the cost of raising children,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.
The bill would also block immigrants who work in the United States without proper authority from receiving the tax credit by requiring that recipients of the credit have a Social Security number.
A 2011 report from the Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration found that 2.3 million filers in 2010 submitted a tax identification number in place of a Social Security number normally used by people eligible to work legally. In all, about 37 million taxpayers claim the credit.
Democrats largely opposed the bill saying it tilted to wealthier families and would harm the very poorest ones by allowing an enhanced benefit they now receive to expire in 2018.
The bill passed 237-173. Reps. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Steve Womack, R-Rogers, voted for it.
Iraq war authority
The House approved a resolution that would require the president to come to Congress before sending combat troops back into Iraq.
The resolution comes as the Iraq government in Baghdad faces a serious threat from insurgent forces that now control a large swath of western Iraq. President Obama has said he has no plans to return ground forces there but proponents of the resolution want Congress to reassert a role in making war.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a longtime opponent of the Iraq war, said a war-weary American public deserves to have any future military actions thoroughly debated.
“Before we put our brave service men and women in harm’s way again Congress should carry out its constitutional responsibility,” she said.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., added such a debate is needed to ensure the backing of the American people.
“Any military officer will tell you the support of the people is critical to the success of a sustained combat operation, and as their representative body that responsibility falls to us,” Royce said.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill, an Iraq War veteran, spoke against the resolution saying it would simply give Obama the ability “to blame Congress for his indecisiveness.”
Instead, Congress should be focused on the threat posed by the “cancer of Jihadism and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) that is growing in the Middle East,” he said.
The resolution passed, 370-40. Three Democrats and 37 Republicans opposed it. Cotton, Crawford, Griffin and Womack voted against it.
College tax break reform
The House approved legislation to simplify federal tax breaks for college students.
The bill would roll four tax credits and deductions into a single “American opportunity tax credit” that proponents said should substantially reduce paperwork for families.
“We need a simple solution that makes it easier to qualify for tax relief and to ultimately afford college,” Camp said.
Rep. Sandy Levin, R-Mich., argued against the bill saying it was not paid for and by eliminating the various programs would harm many students.
“In simplifying education provisions within the tax code, this bill leaves behind numerous undergraduate students, graduate students and lifetime learners,” he said.
Among those injured would be the majority of undergraduate students who take longer than four years to complete their degrees since it would limit the overall deduction to the first four years of schooling, he said.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., argued that simplifying the tax code would help families actually use the benefits available to them to afford college.
“Seven out of 10 graduates are entering the workforce with $33,000 in student loan debt, up $2,000 just from last year,” she said. “Our outdated tax code is no help. With 15 different complicated overlapping provisions, we need a tax code that works for people.”
The bill was approved 227-187. Cotton, Crawford, Griffin and Womack voted for it.