(WNS) – Republicans leaders finally took the advice of pro-life lawmakers and advocates, agreeing not to cut the adoption tax credit.
GOP leaders unveiled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act a week ago, and to the surprise of many, the 429-page document included language ending the credit that helps families cover the cost of adoptions.
No one but a handful of top-level Republican lawmakers and staffers knew about the exclusion before the release of the landmark bill. Now, blindsided pro-life groups and lawmakers are scrambling to make sure President Donald Trump doesn’t sign off on a tax-code rewrite that discourages adoption.
After vocal pushback from pro-life groups and a collection of pro-life lawmakers, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, decided to offer an amendment Thursday retaining the adoption credit.
Lawmakers originally defended the move by saying few families use the credit and pro-lifer advocates hadn’t mentioned it in years, March for Life Action president Tom McClusky told me. “It’s because we never thought somebody would be so stupid to remove it,” he added.
The adoption tax credit provides families up to $13,570 to help offset adoption fees. In 2015, 64,000 families used the credit at a cost to the government of $251 million. Keeping the adoption tax credit would cost the United States $3.8 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. That’s a small amount in an overall tax bill expected to total more than $1 trillion.
This week, Brady justified cutting the credit despite having adopted two children of his own. Not many people use the tax credit, and those that do are already wealthy, he said, noting it’s only available to those who itemize their deductions. Brady claims more families overall would keep more of their money under the proposed bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., explained it this way to the Washington Examiner: “Instead of saying, ‘we’ll give you a one-time break if you do something we approve of,’ let’s just give you your money back in the first place.”
The GOP bill would increase the child tax credit to $1,600 a year, up from $1,000. That’s on top of Ryan’s promise that the average middle-class family would save nearly $1,200 on their annual taxes.
Despite supporters’ protests, it’s hard to find evidence the tax credit has increased the U.S. adoption rate. Regardless of the numbers, eliminating a tax credit that encourages adoption created terrible optics for the pro-life GOP, especially since November is National Adoption Month.
Behind the scenes, critics successfully negotiated a balancing act: reinstating the tax deduction without derailing the complex legislative calculus involved in overhauling the U.S. tax code.
On Tuesday, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., told his colleagues nixing the adoption tax credit would make them hypocrites. He circulated a letter delivered to Brady explaining why it’s smart to reinstate the benefit. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., worked with Franks on the letter and told me it would be a huge disappointment to see a final tax bill without the adoption credit: “We’re a pro-life party as a whole, and I think supporting adoption is an important aspect of it all, so I hope this can be resolved.”
On Tuesday, Republicans passed on a chance to reinstate the benefit. During the second day of the marathon Ways and Means Committee tax bill mark-up, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., offered an amendment to reinstate the credit. It failed 23-16 along party lines. Afterward, Davis trolled Republicans on Twitter: “Pro-Life much right?”
But adoption advocates are now breathing a sigh of relief.
“The adoption tax credit has enormous symbolic, practical and humanitarian meaning and purpose,” Franks said after Brady offered the amendment. “I am deeply grateful that it’s been preserved in the tax plan and for all of those who acted to preserve it.”