WASHINGTON -- The House's tax-writing committee has revised provisions on child care benefits and credits for working Americans in the Republican tax overhaul that President Donald Trump and the party are counting on to protect GOP majorities in next year's elections.
The House Ways and Means Committee resumed work on the legislation on Tuesday after nearly eight hours of argument and accusations a day earlier. The panel is expected to complete work on Thursday.
Republicans say the plan would bring needed tax relief to the middle class, kick-start the economy and create jobs. The political implications were clear as the GOP counts on the tax bill to help them hold onto their congressional majorities in 2018.
"My donors are basically saying get it done or don't ever call me again," said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y.
Democrats say the bill represents a tax-cut bounty for big corporations and the wealthy, and would eliminate benefits relied on by middle-class and low-income people.
Late in the day Monday, the committee approved changes proposed by the chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, to restore the tax exemption for employees receiving child care benefits from their companies. But it also added new requirements on a tax credit used by working people of modest means.
The vote for Brady's amendment was 24-16 along party lines. That pattern is likely to hold for votes on other possible GOP amendments through the next three days and on passage of the bill.
The nearly $6 trillion plan, if it became law, would be the first major revamp of the U.S. tax system in 30 years.
Senate Republicans aim to introduce the legislation by Thursday and try to push it through Congress and to Trump by Christmas. Trump made overhauling the tax system a campaign pledge and an economic promise.
Committee Democrats are raising objections, especially to the bill's limits on deductions for homeowners and the repeal of the child adoption credit and the deduction for medical expenses.
Democrats criticized new, tighter requirements in Brady's amendment for access to the earned income tax credit, including stricter documenting of children and their ages. They insisted it's a valued tax break for working people of modest income that provides an incentive to remain employed.
"We're not talking about fraud here," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. "We're zeroing in on fraud that doesn't exist."
Republicans focused on findings by Congress' nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation that the bill would lower taxes across all income levels over the next several years.
"Clearly this is helping real people. It's helping teachers, it's helping students, it's helping struggling families that are living paycheck to paycheck," said GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota.
Democrats returned repeatedly to a section of the same analysis showing taxes would actually go up beginning in 2023 for some 38 million taxpayers, or families making $20,000 to $40,000 a year.
The committee's top Democrat, Richard Neal of Massachusetts, said the bill "puts the well-connected first while forcing millions of American families to watch while their taxes go up." He and other Democrats complained that Republicans crafted it in private without their input.
The legislation would add $1.5 trillion to an already ballooning national debt as it delivers a major tax cut to corporations and repeals the estate tax, which would benefit a tiny percentage of the wealthiest families in the country.
It would collapse today's seven personal income tax brackets into four, nearly double the standard deduction used by people who don't itemize, and increase the child tax credit, an element championed by first daughter Ivanka Trump.
After embarrassing failures to make good on years of promises to repeal the Obama health law, the tax bill is enthusiastically backed by Trump, House GOP leaders and many rank-and-file Republicans.
Associated Press writer Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.