09.30.21

Lankford Calls Out Harmful Marriage Penalties in Democrats’ “Human Infrastructure” Bill

WASHINGTON, DC – In response to the harmful tax penalties for married couples included in the Democrats’ “Human Infrastructure” bill, Senator James Lankford (R-OK), led by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), today sent a letter along with several of their colleagues urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) to remove any proposals that would discourage marriage.          

“Federal policy should be designed to foster strong marriages, which are the foundation of strong families and strong communities,” the senators wrote. “Unfortunately, despite its original rollout as part of the ‘American Families Plan,’ the current draft of the reconciliation bill takes an existing marriage penalty in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and makes it significantly worse. This is not the only marriage penalty created or worsened by the partisan bill.”

“We believe that marriage is a vital social good. It is misguided and unfair for the government to build bigger barriers for couples to marry,” the senators continued.

Earlier this week, Lankford spoke on the Senate floor about the value of work in the US and the negative effects that will come with the Democrats’ tax-and-spend progressive agenda. Lankford highlighted the left-lining Brookings Institution’s analysis regarding the three specific actions individuals can take to help themselves rise out of poverty: finish high school, get a full-time job, and wait until age 21 to get married and have children. During his speech he stated, “There’s a marriage penalty included in this [reconciliation bill]. If I read from the Brookings Institute, if you want to help people rise out of poverty, there’s actually a marriage penalty in this where it actually punishes [marriage]. So we seem to be punishing work and punishing marriage rather than encourage people to be able to rise.”                 

Joining Senators Lankford and Romney in sending the letter include: Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Todd Young (R-IN).

Full text of the letter can be found below and here.

Dear Leader Schumer and Chairman Wyden:

We were disappointed to learn that in some instances the House of Representatives’ reconciliation bill creates harmful penalties for marriage. Discouraging marriage is not in our country’s best interest and sends the wrong message to our families.

As you know, current marriage penalties occur when a household’s overall tax bill increases due to a couple marrying and filing taxes jointly. A number of other federal programs, such as Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Section 8 housing assistance, also create marriage penalties by eliminating or reducing benefits for couples who marry. Oftentimes, Congress considers these policies individually, disregarding the significant financial hurdles that the combined effect can create for low-income couples to marry.  

Federal policy should be designed to foster strong marriages, which are the foundation of strong families and strong communities. Unfortunately, despite its original rollout as part of the “American Families Plan,” the current draft of the reconciliation bill takes an existing marriage penalty in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and makes it significantly worse. This is not the only marriage penalty created or worsened by the partisan bill. 

The EITC is an important policy tool to incentivize work, but it is also embedded with small, but damaging, marriage penalties. For example, a couple in 2019 with two children where one parent earns $12,000 and the other $30,000 could pay $1,578 more in taxes if they are married – or nearly 4 percent of their yearly earnings. The reconciliation bill could make the same family significantly worse off. It could nearly double the marriage penalty, costing the same parents $2,713 if they choose to marry.

We believe that marriage is a vital social good. It is misguided and unfair for the government to build bigger barriers for couples to marry. 

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