Senators offer bipartisan proposal allowing new parents to advance tax credits

Senators offer bipartisan proposal allowing new parents to advance tax credits
© Greg Nash

Sens. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyObstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Key House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements MORE (R-La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Tuesday released a proposal that they are describing as the first bipartisan paid parental leave plan.

Under the proposal, new parents would be able to advance their child tax credit benefits to receive a $5,000 cash benefit upon the birth or adoption of a child. In exchange, parents would see a $500 reduction in their child tax credits for each of the following 10 years.

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New parents would not be required to take the benefit, but the allowance of the benefit could be used to replace lost wages while someone takes off time from work to care for a new child or be used to cover other expenses while a new parent is working.

Under current law, the maximum child tax credit is $2,000. Assuming that the GOP tax law's increase in the child tax credit amount is made permanent, a family who would otherwise receive a $2,000 annual credit amount and chooses to advance their benefits under the proposal would then receive credits of $1,500 in the following 10 years.

If a family doesn't make enough money to currently qualify for the full refundable portion of the child tax credit, they would be able to advance enough of their credit amounts to cover 100 percent of their wages for 12 weeks. They would also be able to take reductions in future child tax credit amounts over the course of 15 years instead of 10 years, so that their credit reductions are not as large in any given year.

Sinema said in a statement that the proposal "represents an important first step, offering parents a new option to finance time off of work or help pay for childcare.”

The proposal from Cassidy and Sinema comes as lawmakers and the White House have been giving increased attention to the issue of paid family leave. The issue is a top priority of Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpAuthor of Steele dossier had 'cordial' relationship with Ivanka Trump: report Medicare administrator asked for reimbursement for stolen jewelry, clothing: report Tech finds surprise ally in Trump amid high-stakes tax fight MORE, the president's daughter and adviser.

Cassidy convened a hearing about paid family leave last year as chairman of a Senate Finance Committee subcommittee, and he and other GOP lawmakers have met with Ivanka Trump on several occasions since then.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that she's encouraged by Cassidy and Sinema's proposal.

"There is growing support in Congress to deliver a Paid Family Leave solution for American families, but the path forward requires legislators to work together in a bipartisan manner," she said. "Thank you Senators for leading the way!"

 

Cassidy and Sinema's plan is the latest of several paid-leave proposals that lawmakers have floated.

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Bombshell report reveals officials misled public over progress in Afghanistan | Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' in Pentagon contract decision | House Judiciary holds final impeachment hearing Gillibrand demands hearing following release of 'Afghanistan Papers' White House, Congress near deal to give 12 weeks paid parental leave to all federal workers MORE (D-N.Y.) has repeatedly offered legislation that would provide paid family and medical leave, which would be paid for by small payroll tax increases. Gillibrand is running for president, and her legislation is backed by a number of other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates as well.

A number of GOP lawmakers — including Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Justices to hear ObamaCare case with billions at stake Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump MORE (R-Fla.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules Hillicon Valley: Pelosi works to remove legal protections for tech companies from USMCA | Treasury sanctions Russian group over 0 million hack | Facebook sues Chinese individuals for ad fraud | Huawei takes legal action against FCC Senators defend bipartisan bill on facial recognition as cities crack down MORE (R-Utah) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstHouston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements Giffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick MORE (R-Iowa) — have offered proposals that would allow new parents to pull forward some of their Social Security benefits to use for paid leave, in exchange for delaying receiving Social Security benefits when they retire for a short period of time or receiving reduced Social Security amounts.

Republicans have criticized Gillibrand's proposal because it raises taxes, while Democrats have criticized GOP proposals as creating a choice between paid leave and Social Security retirement benefits. Cassidy and Sinema tried to address those criticisms with their plan.

"We don’t raise taxes, affect Social Security, and there are no mandates on either the family or the employer," Cassidy said in a statement. "This is a common ground solution that can pass Congress and become law.”

Cassidy and Sinema's plan is facing criticism for only providing a benefit for new parents and not also providing paid leave for people caring for a sick relative or their own illness. The left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report earlier this month arguing that it's important for proposals to provide comprehensive paid family and medical leave.

Shilpa Phadke, vice president of CAP’s Women’s Initiative, said she's excited about the growing awareness of the need for paid leave but that Cassidy and Sinema's proposal is "not a serious paid leave plan."

In addition to criticizing the plan for not offering paid medical leave, Phadke called the plan a "loan" that asks families to accept future cuts to the child tax credit in order to receive a benefit when they have a new child.

“Parents who qualify for the child tax credit, they need the tax credit,” she said.

A Gillibrand spokesperson also criticized Cassidy and Sinema's proposal.

“Senator Gillibrand respects Senators Sinema and Cassidy, but unfortunately, this isn’t a paid leave bill," the spokesperson said. "It is yet another proposal that would force millions of families to borrow from their own futures and does nothing to help those who are caring for older children or the elderly."

In a Frequently Asked Questions document, Cassidy and Sinema's offices noted that the child tax credit "is inherently tied to children, which limits the scope of the proposal."

The document states that "although this proposal does not address broader medical or caregiver leave, Senators Cassidy and Sinema are continuing to contend with these issues, in an attempt to attain a bipartisan consensus on potential legislative paths forward." 

Updated at 11:58 a.m.