Under pressure, GOP reinstates tax credit on adoptions

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 6:02 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 5:35 PM

            House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, left, introduced an amendment to the House tax reform bill that reinstates a tax credit for families that adopt children. The credit was eliminated in earlier versions of the plan. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
            J. Scott Applewhite
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, left, introduced an amendment to the House tax reform bill that reinstates a tax credit for families that adopt children. The credit was eliminated in earlier versions of the plan. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)(J. Scott Applewhite)

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.

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RELATED: Overseas adoptions plunge in U.S.

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.

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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.”

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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?”

But Chuck Johnson of the Council for Adoption said the tax credit actually saves money, costing .01 percent of the federal budget while the cost of caring for a child in foster care, by most estimates, is more than $100,000 a child per year.

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Trump says he misspoke at Putin summit on Russian interference

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 3:52 PM

A day after publicly siding with Vladimir Putin over U.S. Intelligence on the question of whether Moscow had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, President Donald Trump defended his efforts to improve relations with Russia, even as he back tracked slightly to say that “I accept” the conclusions of intelligence officials on Russian meddling.

In remarks to reporters at the White House, the President said he had simply misspoke, dropping the word “not” in a sentence about his view on Russian responsibility for election interference in 2016.

“I need to make a clarification,” Mr. Trump said, reading from a prepared script before television cameras, as he met with a group GOP lawmakers.

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“I accept our Intelligence Community’s conclusion,” the President said – but he swiftly raised the possibility that actors other than Russia might have been involved, something not supported by the CIA and Congress.

“Could be other people also – there’s a lot of people out there,” the President said.

President Trump’s explanation was that he meant to say, “I don’t know any reason why it would not be Russia,” but that he only said, “I don’t know any reason why it would be Russia.”

The comments came as the President faced a bipartisan firestorm of criticism from Capitol Hill, as lawmakers said the President was wrong to have stood on the same stage with Putin, and downplayed the Russian threat.

Mr. Trump defended his effort to deal with Putin, arguing “that diplomacy and engagement is better than hostility and conflict,” as he accused the press of biased reporting on his European trip.

“The press covered it quite inaccurately,” Mr. Trump added, “They said I insulted everybody,” as the President made clear he was thrilled with efforts to deal with Putin, casting that as more important than his previous meetings with European leaders at the NATO summit.

The President remarks came as Democrats in Congress all but accused President Trump of being a Russian Intelligence asset.

“Is the President an agent of a foreign power?” wrote Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on Twitter.

“He wrapped his arms around Vladimir Putin,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) on the House floor.

“When are the Republicans in Congress going to provide a check on President Trump?” asked Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA).

“It’s embarrassing and alarming that the U.S. President would believe the Russian President instead of the U.S. Intelligence Community,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Meanwhile, many GOP lawmakers made it clear that while they supported the President’s summit meeting with Vladimir Putin, there was an acknowledgement that Mr. Trump’s statements which sided with Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the 2016 elections were not helpful.

“I think anybody that watched that press conference – including the President himself – would say that it was not his finest hour,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), as some conservative voices expressed frustration with Mr. Trump.

“I don’t agree with President Trump’s comments,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL). “The evidence from our national security agencies is clear; Russia deliberately tried to undermine our republic. This is unacceptable.”

“We have seen time and again that Russia will stop at nothing to interfere with and undermine our system of government,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

“Let’s be very clear, so that everybody knows, Russia did interfere with our elections,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who bluntly denounced the Putin regime, clearly labeling him as an enemy of the West.

“Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself,” the Speaker added, seemingly inviting action by Congress on new sanctions against Moscow.

“Vladimir Putin does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin does not share our values,” the Speaker said.

Senate Republican leaders meanwhile went out of their way to proclaim their public support for European allies in NATO, trying to send a much different message than what was transmitted in person by President Trump during his visit last week.

“We believe the European Union countries are our friends, and the Russians are not,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he heaped praise on NATO, and the need to preserve the North Atlantic alliance.

On the issue of election interference, the message was also different from what the President had said in Helsinki.

“Clearly, the Russians tried to interfere in our elections,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).

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Russian woman arrested, charged with illegal political activities in U.S.

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 7:41 PM

Hours after President Donald Trump publicly sided with Vladimir Putin over questions of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the Justice Department announced the arrest of 29 year old Maria Butina, alleging that the Russian citizen violated U.S. law by engaging in a series of political activities involving members of one major political party and a U.S. gun rights organization.

“Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government,” the Justice Department said in a statement, charging she was tasked with “developing relationships with U.S. persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”

“The filings allege that she undertook her activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of Russian government, as required by law,” the DOJ stated.

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While the highly detailed FBI affidavit does not identify the particular political party or gun rights organization – all signs pointed to it being the Republican Party, and the National Rifle Association.

After entering the U.S. in August 2016 on a student visa, the 17 page affidavit basically says the only studying done by Maria Butina was of the U.S. political process, engaging in a conspiracy to exert influence in American politics, especially through her contacts with gun rights supporters.

The details also involve two unidentified Americans, one who Butina first contacted in Moscow around 2013, the other who was part of efforts to gather support for Russia within political circles in 2016 and 2017.

Much of the evidence came from documents, emails, and Twitter direct messages on Butina’s laptop, which was seized by authorities during the investigation.

But the FBI affidavit also seems to indicate that investigators have emails from one American linked to Butina – identified only as “U.S. Person 1.”

“I’ve been involved in security a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key POLITICAL PARTY 1 leaders through, of all conduits, the [GUN RIGHTS ORGANIZATION],” the communication read.


The FBI affidavit offers a variety of efforts to curry favor with Americans, at the National Prayer Breakfast, Russian-American “friendship” dinners, attending annual meetings of a national gun rights organization, and other political gatherings.

Butina’s work evidently also included an instance in 2015, when Butina was able to ask a question of President Trump at the “FreedomFest,” where Mr. Trump – the candidate – assured his audience that he wanted better relations with Moscow.

“Putin has no respect for President Obama,” Mr. Trump tells Butina, in this exchange.

While the charge against Butina was not brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, the details of the inquiry dovetail with that investigation of illegal influence in the 2016 election, a probe which President Trump on Monday again labeled a ‘witch hunt.’

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Kasich talks arms control, ‘fraying’ Western stability under Trump

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 1:31 PM
Updated: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 1:31 PM

Ohio Governor John Kasich talked to CNN's Anderson Cooper Monday morning about what his expectations would be from the Trump, Putin meeting.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he hopes the U.S. and Russia will re-engage in arms control talks following President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

“What I hope they get out of this summit is an agreement to sit down and continue arms control discussions,” Kasich said Monday morning on CNN before the Trump-Putin summit. “It is in all of our interests, the world’s interest, for the two powers who control 90 percent of the nuclear weapons to sit down and re-engage in arms control.”

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At a press conference Monday, Putin said he Trump agreed to continue detailed discussions on arms control issues.

Putin said Russia and the U.S. should discuss a possible extension of the 2010 New START nuclear arms reduction treaty and the implementation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. He added that Russia would like to also discuss U.S. missile defense plans and the weaponization of space.

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Kasich also said he is concerned the stability of the Western order is “fraying” under Trump’s “wrecking ball diplomacy.” Following Trump’s comments to CBS News over the weekend that he viewed the European Union as a foe, Kasich said Trump’s attitude toward the U.S.’s traditional allies bothers him.

“If you read the papers over the weekend, many of these European leaders are getting fed up, and they really are beginning to wonder if they can trust and rely on us,” Kasich said.

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The Associated Press contributed reporting from Helsinki.

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With Putin, Trump calls Russia probe a ‘disaster’

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 @ 12:40 PM

After several hours of talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Finland, President Donald Trump on Monday called the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections a ‘disaster,’ as he seemingly rejected the findings of his own intelligence organizations, accepting the word of Putin that Russia did not meddle in the last campaign for President, and making the case that the investigation had undermined relations between the two countries.

“President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Mr. Trump told reporters at a joint news conference. “I will say this – I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

“President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial,” Mr. Trump added, as the President wrapped up the news conference by attacking FBI official Peter Strzok, and declaring the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller “a giant witch hunt.”

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“It’s ridiculous – it’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe,” the President said. “There was no collusion with the campaign.”

Asked directly about Russian interference, the President instead talked about the missing emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the computer server that Russians allegedly hacked at the Democratic National Committee, and ex-House IT aide Imran Awan.

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