DeLay pushes new tax relief
Senators push child tax credit for low-income families
From Ted Barrett and Steve Turnham
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The ink is barely dry on the hard-fought tax relief bill, but that isn't stopping House Republicans from pushing for new tax cuts.
"We're focusing now on more tax relief," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told reporters Tuesday. "We have about a trillion dollars left in the budget that we will deal with in tax relief and we intend to take advantage of every dollar of it."
The conservative Texan brushed aside criticism that the last bill didn't make an expanded child tax credit available to millions of poorer families, but said House Republicans might support doing so if it prodded senators to vote for a broader tax relief package.
"It's a little difficult to give tax relief to people who don't pay any taxes," DeLay said, offering one reason why the provision was dropped from the earlier bill. "It's a spending program."
If it's part of a bigger bill and "can get us some votes over in the Senate, then I'm more than open to it," he said.
Five Senate Republicans say they could support making the child tax credit available to the lower-income families, which include some 200,000 military families.
"My God, what kind of a message are we sending when we leave out low-income families and exactly in that category are the enlisted men and women who are fighting in Iraq?" Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain told CNN. "It's beyond belief."
Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner of Virginia, Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, and Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa also say they support the idea. However, Grassley wants to tie it to making the child tax credit permanent, an expensive proposal that was dropped from the previous tax bill.
Snowe, Voinovich and McCain support a narrowly written $3.5 billion bill with various offsets included to pay for it.
That bill was introduced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas. It would restore the child tax credit for families in the $10,500 to $26,625 income bracket, but does not include other provisions in the broader -- and more expensive -- Grassley measure.
"The low- and middle-income working families who were cut out of this tax bill at the last minute are the same people who need the most help in this sluggish economy," Lincoln said in a statement.
DeLay criticized Snowe, Voinovich and McCain because they voted against the last tax bill.
"I think it's pretty shameable (sic) that they're now crying for it. Particularly those in the Senate that required we have a 350 billion (dollar) box that we had to work with. All they had to do was move it to 353.5 and they would have gotten it," he said.
In the House, Democrats introduced their own child tax credit legislation. Their $30 billion includes other provisions that will funnel tax relief to working families.
"The American people were sold a false bill of goods by the administration and the congressional Republicans," said Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. "In the middle of the night, the Republicans passed a bill that over and over again puts the interests of the wealthiest people in the country ahead of those of the ordinary American family."
DeLay wouldn't predict what tax-relief proposals might make it into new legislation, but he hinted that a measure to make permanent the elimination of the estate tax and a proposal to allow people to write off state sales taxes on federal income tax forms were his personal favorites.
The budget resolution that passed Congress earlier this year included room for almost $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. Roughly $350 billion of that won special parliamentary protection, allowing passage with a simple majority vote in the narrowly divided Senate. Any new tax bill will probably have to be popular enough to win a tougher, filibuster-proof 60 votes.