Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee are either opposed or "undecided" on their party's tax bill as they seek changes to one specific policy just a day before the final version is set to be unveiled, ahead of anticipated votes in the House and Senate next week.
That's presenting a sudden complication for the fast-moving legislation: If the two senators vote no and Sen. Bob Corker, who voted against the Senate bill, votes against the final bill, the tax plan would not be able to pass the Senate.
Rubio told reporters Thursday that he would vote against the bill if it does not expand how much low-income taxpayers could claim of the expanded child tax credit. Lee's spokesman said the senator is also hoping to make the credit "as beneficial as possible to American working families," and is for now undecided on the entirety of the bill.
Both Lee and Rubio had supported expanding the child tax credit ahead of the vote on the Senate's version of the bill earlier this month to allow taxpayers who have no income tax liability to claim more of the credit and reduce their payroll taxes. Before the final Senate vote, the pair offered up an amendment to do this, but it was shot down with both Republicans and Democrats voting against it 71–29. Rubio and Lee still joined with all other Republicans, aside from Corker, in voting to pass the bill.
The senators' plan has won support from some conservatives and progressives. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, said their amendment would be "a modest but real improvement in their bill’s treatment of low-income working families, with only a relatively small impact on higher-income households."
The bill that passed the Senate, which is now part of the basis for negotiations on the final bill with the House, would boost the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000, but taxpayers whose federal income tax liability was wiped out by part of the credit would not be able to claim the whole thing. According to the CBPP, without full refundability, "10 million children under age 17 whose parents work for low pay — about 1 in 7 of all such children in working families — would receive a token benefit of $75 or less." In the Senate bill, only $1,100 is refundable.
The senators in late Novemebr proposed boosting the corporate tax rate from the 20% proposed in the Senate's initial bill to just below 21% in order to pay for the change, although Lee's spokesman said at the time they were "agnostic" on how exactly to pay for the expansion.
Congressional Republicans are expected to unveil their final negotiated bill Friday, ironing out the differences between the bills passed by the House and Senate, including lowering the top income tax rate and allowing for more taxpayers to deduct some of their state and local taxes against their federal tax bill — two changes that would make the final bill more expensive in budgetary terms and might require bumping the corporate tax rate from 20% to 21%.
"If you’ve found the money to lower the top rate…you can’t find at least a little bit to at least somewhat increase the refundable portion of it?" Rubio said Thursday, according to the Wall Street Journal. "I can’t in good conscience support it unless we are able to increase the refundable portion of it, and there’s ways to do it."
This story has been updated to reflect Sen. Bob Corker's position on the Republican tax bill.