Republicans in Congress are poised to release legislation soon that would revamp the nation’s tax code for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
But Sen. Marco Rubio is insisting that a child tax credit he’s championed for years must be part of the package, or else he’ll vote against the plan. Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, are proposing an increase in the nation’s child tax credit to at least $2,000 per child, up from the current limit of $1,000 per child.
“I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class,” Rubio said. “But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here.”
Rubio has been working with President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka for months on the plan, and she was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to pitch the plan with a group of Republicans including Rubio.
“It is a priority of this administration and it is a legislative priority to ensure that American families can thrive and that we deliver real and meaningful tax relief to middle-income Americans,” Ivanka Trump said Wednesday.
The relationship between Ivanka Trump and Rubio on taxes began in an unlikely place: the Republican primary debates, where Rubio insinuated that Donald Trump wasn’t well-endowed and Trump repeatedly used the phrase “Little Marco” to mock the Florida senator.
Rubio said Thursday that an important bond was formed between the Rubio and Trump families during those debates. Ivanka Trump frequently sat near the Rubio family while Rubio pitched the child tax credit increase during the debates, and she was impressed with his message.
“If you watched the debates you think the only thing that happened is the two hours on stage but … the Trump family and ours always sat the same place,” Rubio said. “And so over time we just kind of developed a rapport with them.”
Shortly after Trump won the White House, Ivanka Trump reached out to ask Rubio how the Senate could help working families in a tax overhaul plan.
“The one we can get … is expansion of the child tax credit,” Rubio said.
The pair's staffs began pouring over legislative language, and Ivanka Trump first came to the Capitol in June to hammer out details of the plan with Rubio and other Republican lawmakers.
The plan they settled on, a $2,000 yearly tax credit per child, is the best way to sell the entire tax plan to middle class voters, Rubio said.
“If we don't do this, then the people I just described to you are not only not going to see a tax cut, they're going to see a tax increase, which nobody around here is prepared to justify because you can’t,” Rubio said.
Rubio's plan will cost $435 billion over 10 years, according to a Rubio aide. Rubio anticipates that the tax credit will be included in the underlying House and Senate tax proposals, though that decision will ultimately be made by congressional leadership.
“This is going to be hotly debated,” Rubio said, adding that family-oriented interest groups who could support the child tax credit have refrained from doing so because they are opposed to the larger effort by congressional Republicans.
“There's no way we can pass tax reform, there's no way we get 50 or 51 votes in the Senate and commensurate votes in the House to pass tax reform if, when you run the numbers, you show that a couple making $55,000 a year raising three kids are going to get a tax increase,” Rubio said. “There's no way you’re going to get the votes for that.”
But Rubio is worried that the credit could be expanded to around $1,500 per child instead of $2,000, an amount he says does nothing for middle-class families.
“Every other element of tax reform has a lobbying corps dedicated to pushing for it,” Rubio said. “There is no lobbying corps for the expanded child tax credit. We have to ensure that is not the reason that somehow at the end of this we look at this and say, ‘Yeah they increased the child tax credit, it’s $1,500.’”
McClatchy DC staff writer Emma Dumain contributed to this story.