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Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 6:02 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 5:35 PM
The House committee crafting a bill to overhaul the tax code Thursday yielded to pressure from adoption advocates, reinstating a politically popular provision that would provide a tax credit to parents who adopt.
The original version of the GOP bill had removed the tax credit, valued at up to $13,750 in 2017. Under current law, the credit can be applied over the course of five years for parents who adopt children through foster care, domestic private or internationally.
On Thursday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady introduced an amendment reinstating the credit. Republicans on the committee approved the bill Thursday, and the full House is expected to vote on the tax plan next week.
News that the adoption credit might be eliminated had galvanized both the right and the left — a wide ideological swath that included anti-abortion groups and LGBTQ couples, who research indicates are four times as likely to adopt as heterosexual counterparts.
Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, applauded the restoration of the credit, saying it “has served as an effective way to encourage adoption by easing the often-steep financial expense that can be incurred by adopting a child.”
Amanda and Arlin Caldwell of Gahanna used the credit twice, once for Alivia, now 5, and once for Ava. 3. Now, they’re hoping they can use it as they work with an attorney in hopes of finding a third child to adopt.
Few families, Amanda Caldwell said, can scrape up the tens of thousands of dollars up front to adopt. Knowing that a tax credit would help offset those expenses, she said, made the process much more stressful.
She was elated by the news that the House had restored the credit. “There is just relief,” she said, admitting she had been “pretty worried” about the elimination of the credit.
Brady, R-Texas, an adoptive father of two who had originally backed eliminating the credit, credited a “thoughtful discussion” with the decision to restore the credit. Doing so, he said, would “ensure parents can continue to receive additional tax relief as they open their hearts and their homes to an adopted child.”
Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, said the organization was “thrilled.” The credit, she said, shouldn’t have been in contention to be eliminated with.” She said her organization reached out privately to Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Twp., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee who, she said, “is very passionate about this.”
She and others had worried that eliminating the credit would provide a chilling effect on adoption. Thomas Taneff, a Columbus-area adoption attorney who is working with the Caldwells, said he worried that eliminating the credit “could create a disincentive for people who need help the most to want to move forward to give a the child a home.”
For parents who adopt out of foster care, the tax credit often helps pay for the special needs that many foster kids have. For those adopting domestically or internationally, it can offset costs ranging from $20,000 to more than $40,000.
Ohio offers a $10,000 tax credit; the two credits combined can mean the difference between being able to afford an adoption and it being cost-prohibitive. In 2015, 1,736 taxpayers claimed the state credit on their tax returns, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation — a value of about $6.4 million. The federal credit is not tracked on a state-by-state basis, but the National Council for Adoption estimates that there were 3,994 adoptions in Ohio in 2014.
On the federal level, the credit is also considered relatively inexpensive, costing the federal government some $300 million in 2015, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Brady had initially defended the elimination of the credit, saying saying families would see savings elsewhere in the tax code — through lower rates and a higher child income tax credit.
“These are tough calls,” he said last week, before restoring the credit. “Do we want a tax code that has special provisions you may use once in your life or do we want a tax code that lowers rates and you get help every year of your life?”
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 6:09 PM
Waving off a push by Democrats to force action this week on a compromise over the future of illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” Republicans in Congress said they wanted to wait for further negotiations on DACA, as House GOP leaders unveiled a short term funding plan that would keep the federal government running into mid-February, but that plan faced immediate resistance from some more conservative Republicans.
“There is no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issues of illegal immigration,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said a resolution on DACA could wait until February or March.
But even without DACA in the mix, a new temporary funding plan unveiled by House Republican leaders last night got a tepid embrace from GOP lawmakers, frustrated by the lack of an overall budget agreement for 2018.
The biggest red flag came from more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, who argue the GOP should forge ahead with a plan to fully fund the military for 2018, while leaving all other government operations on a stop gap budget.
After a meeting Tuesday night, Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) made it clear that the group was not ready to endorse the GOP funding plan, which would keep the government running through February 19.
The goal is to use that extra time to reach a broader budget deal with Democrats, allowing the Congress to then approve a larger “Omnibus” funding plan for the 2018 budget year – which began back on October 1, 2017.
It was a replay of a familiar scenario on Capitol Hill, where House Republican infighting might lead to a shutdown at the end of the week.
“It’s a possibility, yes,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), when asked about the chances of a shutdown.
“But I don’t think it’s really going to happen,” Inhofe told reporters. “Nobody really wants it on either side.”
The new GOP stopgap budget unveiled on Tuesday evening included a few sweeteners, as leaders added to the funding plan a provision that reauthorizes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2023.
“Without immediate action to fund CHIP, millions of low-income children will receive notices in the coming weeks that they might lose their health coverage,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) and Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) in a statement.
While the CHIP extension had been expected, the GOP stopgap budget included something else that was a big surprise – as the bill would suspend three different taxes from the Obama health law.
While Republicans try to find the votes to support that plan, a bipartisan group of Senators will unveil the final details of their DACA compromise on Wednesday, in hopes of stirring more support.
“I don’t know how this movie ends,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who very publicly said he thought the President had signed on to the compromise DACA plan last Thursday, but then had his mind changed by immigration hard liners in the White House, and the Senate.
One of those opponents is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who bluntly told the DACA group of six Senators not to even try to push ahead with their plan.
“Might as well roll it straight into the trash can,” Cotton said of the DACA deal, which he has labeled a mass amnesty.
Meanwhile, Democrats were hoping for a budget impasse, as they argue that a resolution on DACA could still be added into the mix this week.
Many Republicans say they also want action on DACA, but they understand in the current environment – after the blow up over what the President said – or did not say – last week, that no agreement can happen right now.
“Unfortunately, about every time we get close to putting our toes in the water, something happens,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
The tentative plan is for the House to try to vote on a stop gap budget on Thursday. The Senate could then pass the same measure before a Friday night shutdown deadline.
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 7:16 PM
Updated: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 6:39 PM
WASHINGTON — The Navy says it is filing negligent homicide charges against the commanders of two ships involved in fatal collisions last year.
The USS John S. McCain collision resulted in the death of Champaign County sailor Jacob Drake. Drake was a Petty Officer 2nd class.
The charges are to be presented at what the military calls an Article 32 hearing, which will determine whether the accused are court-martialed.
The actions, including charges against several lower-ranking officers, were announced Tuesday by the Navy's chief spokesman, Capt. Greg Hicks.
Hicks says the decision to file charges was made by Adm. Frank Caldwell, head of the Navy's nuclear reactors program, who reviewed evidence of what caused the collisions. The USS Fitzgerald collided with a commercial ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors. Ten sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asia in August.
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 5:16 PM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is in excellent health and likely to finish his term in office without any medical issues, a presidential doctor said Tuesday at a news conference, four days after the president underwent a physical exam.
“The president's overall health is excellent," White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson said Tuesday.
Here are six things to know about the results of the president’s physical:
Jackson: ‘He had great findings across the board’
Trump is in “very, very good health,” Jackson said Tuesday.
“(I have) no concerns for his heart health,” the presidential physician said. “There are many good things that came from his exam, I think he had great findings across the board. “
Jackson said Trump’s good health is likely to last through “the remainder of this tern, and even for the remainder of another term, if he’s elected.” He said he based his assessment on the president’s cardiac results.
“He falls into a category that portends years of event-free living,” Jackson said. “He has incredibly good genes, and that’s just the way God made him.”
White House doctor says despite President Trump's fast food habit and lack of exercise, he's in "excellent" condition; "He has incredibly good genes, and it's just the way God made him" https://t.co/fpNP3Hpnco pic.twitter.com/VGoTFSgp7C— CNN (@CNN) January 16, 2018
Cognitive screening showed no issues
Jackson said he conducted a cognitive screening on Trump at the president’s request, although he felt the test was unnecessary.
“I’ve spent almost every day in the president’s presence,” said Jackson, whose office is near Trump’s. “I’ve got to know him pretty well and I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or neurological functions.”
He said that in all his conversations with Trump, the president has been “very articulate.”
“I’ve never known him to repeat himself around me,” Jackson said. “He says what he wants to say and speaks his mind.”
Infamous slurred speech incident might have been caused by medication
A December incident in which the president sounded as though he was slurring his speech while announcing a policy shift in Israel was probably due to a medication, Jackson said.
“We evaluated him, we checked everything out and everything was normal,” Jackson said, adding that the incident was likely caused because the president needed water.
He said prior to the Dec. 7 incident, he gave Trump Sudafed, which might have “inadvertently dried up his secretions.”
Trump working to lose 10-15 pounds
At 6-foot-3 and 239 pounds, the president has a body mass index of 29.9, just under the number that would designate him as obese, according to information released Tuesday.
“The president, he and I talked and... I think a reasonable goal over the next year or so is (to lose) 10 or 15 pounds,” Jackson said, adding that a nutritionist would be meeting with White House chefs in the coming weeks and that Trump would be put on an exercise routine.
“He’s more enthusiastic about the diet,” Jackson said.
Jackson not concerned about Trump’s stress levels
Despite concerns from the public and reports that have painted a chaotic White House, Jackson said that he has no concerns about the president’s stress levels.
“I talk to him sometimes about stress just because I think it’s my job as his physician to bring it up on occasion,” he said. “I’ve never seen the president stressed out too much. ... He has a unique ability to push the reset button and he just gets up and he starts a new day. (I think it’s) made him healthier from a stress standpoint.”
Jackson did not test Trump’s hearing
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 11:57 AM
WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to testify before a grand jury as part of the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to the Trump campaign, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
SCOOP: Mueller has subpoenaed Steve Bannon to testify before a grand jury as part of the ongoing Russia investigation. First person in Trump's inner circle known to have received a grand jury subpoena. https://t.co/dbKWuDjdMp— Michael S. Schmidt (@nytmike) January 16, 2018