Spotlight Exclusives

Romney Previews Spirited Senate Child Allowance Debate

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) outlined his Family Security Act proposal to create a permanent child allowance in a conversation with American Compass Executive Director Oren Cass Thursday, stressing the importance for Republicans to promote serious policy proposals rather than simply opposing Democratic initiatives.

“Republicans are seen as not having a point of view other than no,” Romney said. “And there are a lot of things that Democrats are doing, where the right answer is no. But there are some topics where we have a better idea. And I think it’s important for us to lead with those ideas, and this is one area I think we can do that.”

Romney’s proposal, for which Niskanen Center director Sam Hammond was a chief adviser, would replace the existing Child Tax Credit with a flat, universal child allowance equal to $4,200 for children ages 0 to 5 and $3,000 for ages 6 to 17. Parents would receive monthly payments through the Social Security Administration of $350 a month for kids aged 6 and under and $250 and for kids older than 6. Romney would pay for the proposal by ending the tax deduction for state and local taxes, simplifying the Earned Income Tax Credit and eliminating the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

Romney credited his staff with being the driving force behind the idea, but said his major motivation was to promote childbearing. “The observation that I’ve had, and that I think many of us in the conservative world have had, is that we’ve seen the birth rate in this country go down, down, down. And people are not getting married and not having kids. And the preservation of a civilization . . . is related of course to maintaining its population.”

A provision in the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan increases the CTC for one year to a fully refundable $3,600 credit for children under 6 and $3,000 for children aged 6 to 17, from a partially refundable $2,000 per child. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) also have advanced a proposal, as has American Compass, both of which, in various ways, tie an increased CTC to the family’s income and work record.

Romney said he expects a spirited debate in the coming year and that he’s open to changes in his plan if it can attract bipartisan support. He said the fact that his plan offers specific spending cuts to remain deficit-neutral should be a major selling point.

“I think the Democrats are going to have a difficult time deciding what of all the things that they promised that they’re going to give people for free they’re actually going to do, and how are they going to pay for it?” Romney said. “They have so many things, whether it’s college tuition, reduction in college loans, whether it’s a green new deal, investments in K through 12, and of course these child support efforts. I mean, this is a multi-hundred billion dollar effort that the president has proposed, so how are we going to pay for it in a non-emergency year? And I don’t know that they have confronted yet the cost of all the things that they want to do.”

Cass, the domestic policy adviser for Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, questioned the senator about several ways his plan differs from traditional conservative orthodoxy, specifically in offering increased benefits without a direct link to work and being available to a large swath of middle-class and even upper-income families, rather than just those at the lower end of the income spectrum. Romney’s plan would have the new benefit taxed for incomes above $200,000 for single households and $400,000 for married households.

Romney indicated he would be open to potentially requiring parents to have worked a certain amount in the past in order to receive the benefit, or even to have worked a very modest number of hours in the past year. But, he said his “preference is to recognize that one thing I want to encourage here is family formation and childbearing. I also want to encourage and continue to encourage work. But I don’t know that I want to put those two things together. So, I want to make sure that we have incentives for people to go to work and to be participants in the work system. At the same time, I want to encourage people to have children and I want to support people who do have children, to make sure that the child is given the kind of care and treatment that we as a society want them to have.”

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