As the Senate voted on the highly controversial tax bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment on Friday night to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security cuts. He has been vocal recently with concern that the tax bill was only the beginning and Republicans would be aiming for entitlement expenditures next. His amendment was voted down, including by three Democrats who voted against it. Shortly after this, 39 Democrats voted against a Republican-sponsored amendment that would increase the child tax credit for low-income families.
The following Democrats voted against Sanders’ amendment to block cuts on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security: Sen. Tom Carper (DE), Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), Sen. Mark Warner (VA). Interestingly, Republican Sen. Susan Collins voted in support of Sanders’ amendment. It’s not known exactly why these Democrats voted against Sanders’ amendment. Two out of three have shared their reasoning so far, but voters are still confused. Durbin, for example, said his vote was because of “procedural reasons.”
Warner’s spokesman simply pointed to his previous statements about needing entitlement reform. His reasoning is still unclear and voters aren’t sure what that statement actually means. And as of the time of publication, Carper had not given any public reason for his decision.
Sanders’ amendment was in response to concerns that after the tax overhaul is passed, Republicans might look into cutting spending on welfare, so-called entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, and other “safety net” programs. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that he wants Republicans to reduce government spending. Sen. Marco Rubio has also said that spending is out of control. This is something Democrats agree with, but the two parties diverge on where the cuts should be made. President Donald Trump said last month that welfare reform would be the focus after taxes. And Rubio has said that Medicare and Social Security are the big drivers for government debt.
But the GOP tax bill might increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, The Washington Post reported, with the number decreasing to $1 trillion when economic growth is included in an analysis. On Thursday, Sanders asked Rubio and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey to promise that Republicans wouldn’t cut Medicare and Social Security next. Rubio said he opposed cuts for current beneficiaries. But neither would promise not to cut funding for future beneficiaries.
While watching the vote on Friday, some voiced surprised that three Democrats switched sides and voted against Sanders’ amendment. When they saw that 54 voted against the bill, they assumed that meant two Democrats switched. But it was actually three Democrats who switched sides and one Republican. Democrat voters weren’t too happy about the three who voted against Sanders’ amendment, and took to social media to voice their displeasure.
Later, when the Rubio-Lee amendment to protect the Child Tax Credit was introduced, the Senate voted 29-71 against it, which included 39 Democrats voting “no” and 32 Republicans. Voting for the amendment were 20 Republicans and just nine Democrats. Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee introduced an amendment that would raise the corporate tax rate modestly and give more money to low-income families via the Child Tax Credit. There were problems with the amendment that concerned Democrats, The Washington Post reported. The main problem was that supporting the amendment might make overall passage of the bill more likely, or at least give the appearance that parts of the bill had bipartisan support. For that reason, many Democrats shied away. But in the end, if the tax bill passes, that amendment might have made things a little better for the poor.
Here are the Democrats who voted for the Child Tax Credit Amendment:
- Joe Donnelly
- Heidi Heitkamp
- Amy Klobuchar
- Joe Manchin III
- Claire McCaskill
- Bill Nelson
- Gary Peters
- Debbie Stabenow
- Argus King
The tax bill would have boosted the child tax credit from a maximum of $1,000 per child per year to $2,000 per child per year. But, according to The Washington Post, this was mostly available only to families who made enough to pay income taxes. Families who didn’t make enough for income tax but only paid payroll tax would only qualify for $75 a year per child.
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Prior to the Rubio amendment, Sen. Sherrod Brown offered an amendment to expand the child tax credit to $2,500 for children under six and increase the corporate tax rate to 25 percent. This amendment also did not pass.