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 CassidyA cash advance to consider Bottom Line I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King 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 TrumpThe White House and schools have this in common: Asbestos President tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report 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 Elizabeth GillibrandDemocratic candidates face hard choices as 2020 field winnows The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate 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 RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE (R-Fla.), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeA cash advance to consider McConnell, allies lean into Twitter, media 'war' Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing MORE (R-Utah) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBill Maher says he's 'glad' David Koch is dead Five things to know about David Koch A cash advance to consider 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.