This vote was on an amendment by Jim DeMint, R-S.C., that would have created a tax deduction of up to $1,500 per year per child for qualified health care costs. The amendment would not allow a deduction if the child is eligible for federally-assisted health care. The amendment was offered to a bill that expands and reauthorizes the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which offers health insurance for children of families who are too poor to purchase private health insurance, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.
DeMint said the purpose of this amendment is to provide all eligible American families with a per-child tax deduction “comparable to the average Federal share of the benefit provided to any noncitizen child under the SCHIP legislation.” DeMint said he offered the amendment because the underlying bill would extend coverage, with some limitations, to immigrant children; he suggested that this would help ensure that citizen taxpayers were also treated fairly.
“This is a matter of basic fairness. I encourage my colleagues, Republican and Democrat, if the whole point of this legislation is to help struggling families with children make sure they have health care for their children, let’s be fair to American citizens and at least give them an equal benefit that we are giving to noncitizens. Let’s not make middle-class working Americans pay for health care for noncitizens while we are basically taxing the struggling American worker who is trying to pay for it on their own,” DeMint said.
Max Baucus, D-Mont., said this bill is not the place for such an amendment, even though “on the face of it, that might sound like something people might want to do, to give an extra tax deduction for children’s health care expenses.”
“I do not think this is the time and place to be coming up with single rifle shot, arbitrary tax amendments on a nontax bill. These provisions have to be considered together … certainly in the context of health care reform,” Baucus said. “I do not think it makes sense to adopt this kind of amendment. Then somebody else will have an amendment for a tax break here, a tax break there, and who knows what. This should be taken up in comprehensive health care reform or a comprehensive tax bill.”
By a vote of 40-58, the amendment was rejected. All but six Republicans present voted for the amendment. All but five Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward without language that would have given a $1,500 per-year per-child tax deduction to anyone not eligible for a federally assisted health care program.