Push to restore adoption credit gains steam

Greg Nash

House Republicans are facing growing pressure from anti-abortion groups and conservatives to restore an adoption tax credit to their bill to overhaul the tax code.

The push comes as the House GOP debates the bill and days before the Senate is scheduled to release its own version, potentially adding new complications for Republicans as they move forward.

{mosads}Though the credit is backed by those on both sides of the aisle, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said he would encourage the committee to vote against a Democratic amendment introduced late Tuesday to add the credit back in to the House tax-reform bill.

Brady said he understands the criticisms, but noted the credit was removed because there aren’t very many families able to use it. Since the credit is only available to people who itemize their deductions, wealthier people tend to take advantage of it. Brady said more people would benefit under the proposed bill.

“I’ve always worried about the current credit because it helps many who are of a certain income level and who qualify,” Brady said. “I worry about those families who are modest income, who don’t itemize [deductions]. I worry the current credit leaves too many Americans behind.”

Brady, an adoptive father of two, said he wants to work with members of both parties to find a better policy than the existing credit.

The Democratic amendment to restore the credit was defeated along party lines late Tuesday.

Religious groups, as well as House and Senate conservatives, say that by eliminating the credit, the bill goes against the GOP’s anti-abortion platform. The credit provides up to $13,570 in tax savings per adopted child.

“We don’t want to be a caucus that funds Planned Parenthood and does away with the adoption tax credit after saying ‘adoption not abortion,’ ” Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) told The Hill.

But anti-abortion advocates predicted they would win in adding back the measure.

“There’s enough growing opposition. [Republicans] will find it’s a distraction they don’t need,” said Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, the political arm of the March for Life, a leading anti-abortion group.

A petition circulating Tuesday to members of March for Life said the removal of the adoption tax credit “will adversely affect families seeking to adopt.”

“Adoption is a critically important pro-life effort, and the adoption tax credit is a significant government policy to encourage and enable it,” the petition said.

Still, McClusky said the bill itself is too important for March for Life to oppose if the credit were left out, but he said it would still be bad optics for Republicans if they weren’t able to find a workaround.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), leader of the House Pro-Life Caucus, said in a statement to The Hill the deduction “is vital to helping families deal with the often-high upfront costs — like travel and legal fees — of adopting vulnerable children, including kids with special needs.”

Another conservative, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), on Tuesday sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Brady urging them to restore the credit, calling it “a moral responsibility for our pro-life, pro-family party.”

“Encouraging adoption discourages abortion: that simple cause-and-effect is very clear,” Biggs wrote.

The Ways and Means Committee is meeting all this week to mark up the tax legislation, a major GOP priority, especially after their failure to repeal ObamaCare.

House leaders are aiming to pass the bill before Thanksgiving.

The lawmakers behind the push said they are still optimistic the credit will be restored sometime this week, before the committee finishes its markup.

One thing working in their favor is the price tag: Eliminating the credit is only projected to save about $3.8 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

“You’re talking about $380 million a year, so this is something I feel like doesn’t break the bank, but it is something that literally impacts these families that don’t make a lot of money but still want to open their home for children,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Walker said he and Brady have “exchanged a few texts and calls” in recent days about restoring the credit.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said he wasn’t sure about whether the credit would be restored in the House or the Senate, but when he met with House leaders on Tuesday, they seemed receptive to the idea.

“As a pro-life caucus I think it’s an important move that we hopefully address that, so whether it’s in this bill or when we go to conference, addressing that issue is important for us,” Meadows said.

Meadows added that the credit is important, but the Freedom Caucus won’t be withholding its support for the bill if it’s not restored.

“We’re making an impassioned plea to support that, but I don’t see us withholding our votes,” Meadows said.

Tags Kevin Brady Paul Ryan Trent Franks
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