Democratic New York Congressman Charlie Rangel introduced a bill in the House of Representatives Thursday that would make substantial changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit. Rangel’s bill, the EITC for Childless Workers Act of 2014, would expand aid to singles, individuals without children, and would extend the EITC to US Possessions, including Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.
“I want to really enhance (the EITC) to make it broader during this time of unemployment for single people. They may not have children and married people may not have children, but the fact is, that they are suffering with a minimum wage that hasn’t been changed in decades and they still have to live,” Rangel said in an interview with Business Insider Thursday. “And as much as we call the Puerto Rican community and the Virgin Islands community all citizens of the United States, we don’t treat them as citizens. This bill would extend the refundable EITC to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.”
Rangel’s proposal comes on the heels of a draft discussion for a sweeping plan to overhaul the tax code that was released by the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, Rep. David Camp, on Wednesday. Camp developed his plan with former Democratic Senator Max Baucus. Rangel criticised Camp’s plan for reducing the EITC and said Camp did not present it to Democrats on the committee prior to its release.
“Rather than having a congressional bill it’s like a Republican study group on the Ways and Means committee that have put out some ideas that they have,” said Rangel.
Rangel, who is also a member of the Ways and Means committee, noted House Speaker John Boehner is “not excited” about the Camp bill and said, coupled with lack of Democratic support, this means it is unlikely to even come to the House floor for a vote.
“The truth of the matter is, I don’t see how — I don’t really believe that we’re going to get a bill on the floor. I really don’t,” Rangel said. “If the Speaker’s not excited about it, then we have to move on and try to get something really accomplished rather than drafts.”
Rangel’s bill would raise the maximum EITC a childless adult could receive from $US496 to $US1,500. It would also drop the qualifying age for EITC for single adults from 25 to 21. The bill would also raise the income limits where EITC phase-out begins for both single workers and childless couples. Rangel described it as unfortunate that Camp did not consult with Democrats and said the Camp bill could have been improved if it included some of his ideas about expanding the EITC.
“If only they could have checked with this bill I have to see how it could be incorporated into what they’re doing and explain to us before the rollout,” said Rangel. “This is no way politically — you know it, the Speaker knows it, and the President knows — this is no way in the world to present a complex thing as a tax bill by having just the Republicans on one committee work out a draft.”
Rangel, who initially criticised Camp’s plan for eliminating state and local tax deductions, said Democrats would be more likely to support the plan if it was clear there were elements that would benefit poor and middle class Americans to go with the overall lowering and streamlining of tax rates in the proposal.
“We do know the benefits that are being lost, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the child tax credit, the local and state taxes. We know what they’re taking away, but when it comes to lowering the rates, we don’t see where the middle class is coming out as the beneficiary. Nor do we see whether or not the revenues that are being raised are going to be used to create jobs and support education initiatives,” Rangel said. “All of those things are necessary if we’re going to move the economy.”
Despite his criticism for the Camp bill, Rangel said it was “courageous” for Camp to “put out a draft of a tax bill that the Republicans favour.” He also suggested Camp’s plan could begin a productive conversation.
“Now, quite frankly I don’t even know what the heck a draft means,” explained Rangel. “If a draft means that this is what’s going to be given to the full committee to work on toward a bill, then I think this is one great step.”
View a copy of Rangel’s EITC for Childless Workers Act of 2014 below.
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