WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Feb. 10 providing tax relief to married couples.
The House voted 268-158 in favor of the Marriage Tax Penalty Relief Act after defeating a substitute proposal supported by most Democrats. President Clinton has said he will veto the Republican version adopted by the House if it passes the Senate. Though the president called in his State of the Union address for easing the income-tax penalty for married couples, his Democratic allies and he favor targeting lower-income families with relief.
Supporters of the House-approved measure say the issue is one of tax fairness, not a tax cut. Under the tax code, about 21 million married couples pay a yearly average of $1,400 more in taxes than they would if they lived together without being married.
“This grossly unfair provision in the tax code both undermines and devalues the institution of marriage, the very foundation of a stable society,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which backs the bill. “Rather than encouraging marriage, [the marriage penalty] discourages it, placing an unjust burden on hard-working American families.”
Rep. Bill Archer, R.-Tex., the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee who crafted the tax-relief plan, said in a written release, “For whatever reason, Democrats may say that we should not help stay-at-home moms and dads, and their plan actually denies relief to these important parents. But that’s wrong. Raising a child is the single most important job in the world, and we are right to provide these families with relief.”
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D.-Mo., said before the vote, according to Conservative News Service, “We need to enact responsible tax cuts that support families and provide educational opportunity. But the tax cuts that are being taken up in the House today are the wrong way.”
Forty-eight Democrats joined 219 Republicans and an independent in voting for the GOP tax-relief plan. A Democratic substitute failed in a 233-192 vote. Thirteen Democrats and an independent voted with 219 Republicans to defeat the alternative.
The House-approved plan has the following elements: It raises the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly to twice the standard deduction for people filing as singles; it increases the lowest tax bracket, 15 percent, to twice as much as the corresponding bracket for single filers, and it makes more lower-income married couples eligible for Earned Income Credit aid.
The legislation would provide $182 billion in tax relief over 10 years, while the Democratic proposal that was defeated offered nearly $90 billion for 10 years.