A debate between freelance reporter Aaron Schatz and Chief Economist for the Americans for Tax Reform, Dan Clifton.
The House is set to vote today on an explosive issue which has led to widespread condemnation of Republicans by the mainstream media and Democrats, and an embarrassing rift between President Bush and House Republican leaders, and protests.
At issue is whether or not some of the nations poorest working families should be included in the sweeping tax cut legislation President Bush signed last month. The tax cut package includes an increase in the child tax credit. This means millions of families will soon receive a check for $400 per child.
But the controversy started when the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and child advocacy groups discovered that working families who barely make the minimum wage would not receive the kickback. Senate and House Republican leaders had cut these families out of the bill at the last minute.
The same day papers around the world reported that Bush had signed into law the much-touted tax cut, The New York Times reported on its front page that some of the nation’s poorest working families had been cut out of the deal. Other news outlets followed the lead, and Democrats denounced the Republicans.
Within days, the Senate voted 94 to 2 to extend the tax credit to the low-wage families. (They took the opportunity to extend the tax credit to wealthy families as well.)
House Republican leaders refused to do the same. House Majority leader Tom Delay said the House would approve the tax credit only as part of a broader tax-cut package that could even include the permanent repeal of the estate tax.
Enter the White House. At a press conference on Monday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was asked what President Bush would say to Republican lawmakers who disagree with the Senate bill. He ordered the lawmakers to "Pass it." Fleischer said: "His advice to the House Republicans is to pass it, to send it to him, so he can sign it."
But the Republicans refused to back down. Tom Delay said: "Ain’t going to happen." When he was reminded of Fleischer’s demand that House republicans pass the Senate bill quickly, Delay replied: "The last time I checked, he doesn’t have a vote."
Delay said the House would include the working poor into the tax credit only as part of much broader tax-cut bill — one that will cost $82 billion dollars — 8 times as much as the Senate bill cost.
On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the budget deficit will exceed $400 billion this year. That would be the biggest deficit in U.S. history. The non-partisan office said this is due to the war in Iraq, the weak economy — and the series of tax cuts.
- Aaron Schatz, freelance reporter
- Dan Clifton, Chief Economist for the Americans for Tax Reform