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OPINION: Crapo, Wyden split on child tax credit

by CHUCK MALLOY/Guest Opinion
| April 26, 2024 1:00 AM

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has found a sure way to ensure that his prized legislation doesn’t see the light of day.

He sent a news release singling out the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, and blasting Republicans for holding up legislation aimed at boosting the child tax credit and helping innovative small business owners — the Tax Relief for Families and Workers Act.

Wyden said that Crapo has not accepted the Oregon Democrat’s offer to change the bill. “The changes he asked for instead would have destroyed any chance of passing the bill and left way too many kids living in poverty.”

I talked with Crapo about Wyden’s remarks, and the Idaho senator brushed off Wyden’s remarks. As Crapo said, it’s not unusual for committee chairs and ranking members to have aggressive disagreements, and Crapo recognizes that he is the GOP’s focal point on this issue. Crapo and Wyden are longtime colleagues from neighboring states and have worked on a long list of issues over the years.

“This will not harm our working relationship at all,” Crapo told me.

Of course, Senate Republicans who may have read Wyden’s release, might have a different view. If anything, their support for Crapo — and his opposition to the bill — will be even stronger.

Wyden says there is plenty of GOP support outside of the Senate. The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, a Republican and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. In January, the bill passed the House with 357 votes — a landslide by House standards.

“It’s a combination of ideas from both sides,” Wyden says. “It expands the child tax credit, focusing on kids from low-income families.” For small businesses, “it beefs up the incentive for (research and development) and investments in things like new equipment and software.”

Wyden suggests that Senate Republicans are holding out for a better deal in 2025, a notion that Crapo does not totally reject. Maybe some are hoping for a Trump presidency, or a Republican majority in the Senate.

“I don’t presume those kinds of things, and that’s not the position I’m advocating,” Crapo said. “We need to get into negotiations and find a resolution.”

Crapo says he’s all for strengthening the child tax credit and giving a boost to small businesses.

“There is a series of business tax polices that need to be fixed, and I am one of the strongest — if not the strongest — advocate for fixing those,” he said. “The demand on the Democrat side for doing that has been to expand the child tax credit, and I am not opposed to that. But they also want to change the tax credit to being much more of a straight entitlement, taking work requirements out of the system and making it much less available to the middle-class people who are paying taxes.”

Crapo favors helping those who need the government subsidy, the roughly 50 percent of families that receive the child tax credit. “But this will take it to about 91 percent and it’s not offering the appropriate amount of support to the middle-class working families.”

Also on the Republican side, pulling work requirements for any welfare program is a non-starter. 

“I’m very open to negotiating a bill, if we get it right,” Crapo said. “As of now, the fixes that I believe need to be made to the bill are considered to be unacceptable to negotiate on from the other side, so we are at a standstill.”

Republicans are not heartless creatures when it comes to helping out families and kids, Crapo says.

“The child tax credit was created in 1997 by Republicans, and in 2017 it was doubled. I voted for it, and that is the law today,” he said. “I’m willing to add strength beyond what we did in 2017. This discussion is about not only expanding it, but whether we are going to change it by taking work out and moving a vast portion of it away from working middle-class families.”

It seems that there is a middle ground somewhere. Finding it is next to impossible in a presidential election year when party control of the Senate hangs in the balance.

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Silver Valley native Chuck Malloy is a longtime Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at ctmalloy@outlook.com.