Two of the most pressing concerns on Capitol Hill are 1) finding a way to restore cuts in veterans’ pensions that were included in the budget deal brokered by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan; and 2) figuring out a plan to pay for extended emergency unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans whose benefits have run out.
They are vexing problems, but Republicans, led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, came up with a proposal to solve them. The only difficulty was, the solution — finding billions to pay for the restored pensions and unemployment insurance — involved cracking down on a tax credit program in which illegal immigrants have fraudulently collected billions of dollars in improper payments. Stop the fraud, Ayotte argued, and then use the money saved to pay for pensions and unemployment insurance. It seemed like an elegant solution.
Sounds good, right?
Except that Democrats would have none of it. Putting an end to the fraudulent collection of tax credits by illegal immigrants would hurt the most vulnerable, they argued. “This idea of going after children is one of the worst ideas I have ever heard,” Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said in floor debate Thursday. “I am shocked — I am shocked. You’re going to hurt children. You’re going to take away food out of their mouths.”
Why stop with the non-citizens who snuck into our country? Why not feed every single poor person on earth?
Ayotte’s plan was in the form of an amendment to the Democratic bill to extend unemployment insurance. Ayotte broke with most of her Republican colleagues by voting to go forward with the bill; she did so specifically for the purpose of proposing her amendment. But Majority Leader Harry Reid slammed the door on the amendment and would not allow it to be considered.
The Ayotte amendment was remarkably simple. It would have required anyone collecting benefits from a program known as the Additional Child Tax Credit to supply a Social Security number in order to collect the money. An information sheet released by Ayotte’s office noted a report from the Treasury Department inspector general explaining fraud in the ACTC program…