Written by Staff Writer Rose William, CNN
President Donald Trump’s Republican leadership is using the fight over tax reform to try to unwind programs that Democrats and civil rights groups say unfairly benefit black people.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, in a statement on Saturday released the Republican’s plan to withdraw money from the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and a number of smaller education-related programs.
The programs include the Essential Student Tuition Credit, which was enacted in 2013 and allows low-income students to receive a tax credit of up to $2,500 to offset tuition at eligible college campuses, as well as the Educational Opportunity Fund, which helped underwrite college costs for some low-income students whose family income was just under 300% of the poverty level.
Hatch said he was confident that an agreement to move the tax bill out of committee and onto the Senate floor was being worked out. “If we fail to reach a consensus on tax reform soon, I will return the bill to committee for a full debate and amendments — just as we did this summer on health care.
“I am determined to enact tax reform that benefits the many, not the few, and that doesn’t add to the $20 trillion national debt that the previous administration created,” he said.
On Friday the President signed the tax bill into law.
Republicans began jostling for policy advantage over Democrats immediately after the bill was passed on Friday.
In a tweet that highlighted the party’s grip on House control, the official White House account said that in addition to working with Democrats on health care, the White House “also met yesterday to plan our agenda for next year. In just 24 hours, we passed and signed the most sweeping tax cuts in American history, repealed & replaced Obamacare, enacted historic deregulation, repealed & replaced the Independent Payment Advisory Board, fought for and won tax relief for the middle class and millions of working families, and cut red tape, created new opportunities & growth, and cut our national debt.”
But Democrats were quick to paint the broad bipartisan agreement on tax reform as nothing more than an attempt to change the subject from Capitol Hill’s immigration woes.
“The fact that the President and Republican leaders aren’t willing to talk about immigration and the human tragedy happening at the border says a lot about how our priorities actually line up with the voters’ priorities,” said Andy Stone, a spokesman for Rep. Mark Pocan, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
One of the targets of Democrats was the education component of the bill. A proposal to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% was jettisoned in its original form.
The American Federation of Teachers, one of the country’s largest teachers unions, argued in a statement that Republicans want to end federal support for preschool and higher education.
“This is nothing more than a misguided effort to use the most popular piece of bipartisan tax reform legislation to cut back access to the opportunity and future success of the nation’s young people,” said Randi Weingarten, the union’s president.
Pocan said Democrats were not afraid to offer a vision for tax reform that focused on growth and wage increases, as well as priorities that touch people on all sides of the political spectrum, including international students in the nation’s colleges and universities.
“It is about opportunity. It is about hope,” he said. “It is about fairness.”