House passes child tax credit, business tax relief; path in Senate uncertain – National & International News – THU 1Feb2024



House passes child tax credit, business tax relief; path in Senate uncertain.

US court finds Israel ‘plausibly’ committing genocide; takes no action to stop Biden supporting it. 



House passes child tax credit, business tax relief; path in Senate uncertain

The House yesterday passed a bill that would both expand child tax credits (though not to 2021 levels) and extend tax benefits for businesses. The short-lived 2021 child tax credits lifted about 3 million American children above the poverty line. The gains of the current proposal, when fully in effect after three years, would be more modest, lifting about half a million American children out of poverty. Overall, about 16 million children would benefit to some degree.

The business tax initiatives would restore full deductions for businesses purchasing new equipment and machinery. It would also allow full deductions for domestic research and development (R&D) expenses. The bill would also increase flexibility for businesses to determine how to deduct borrowing costs from their tax bills.

The bill is backed by Reps. Jason Smith (R-MO) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). It passed 357 to 70 in the closely divided House, with a greater share of Democratic support than Republican. The Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson has lent the bill his full-throated support.

Support in the Senate unclear

Members of both parties have expressed opposition. Some Democrats say that the child tax credit does not go far enough to help low-income families.

Republicans have also objected to the child tax credit portion, either because they don’t want to give President Biden a win in an election year. Other GOP Senators have have objected (incorrectly) that the bill will add $800 billion to the deficit over a decade. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has found that the child tax credits would cost about $33 billion. The CBO also said that offsets in the bill would mean this wouldn’t add significantly to the deficit.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has expressed support for the bill. Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer (ND) says he’s undecided on the bill, but “If Jason Smith and Ron Wyden can agree on something to this degree, that’s this complicated, I start with the notion that it’s certainly serious and we’ll take a look at it”. Cramer added that the “perfect can’t be the enemy of good,” and that, “when there’s enough for everybody to like most of it and enough for at least several to not like parts of it, it looks like a bipartisan deal”.

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Read more about what’s in the bill here.


US court find Israel ‘plausibly’ committing genocide; takes no action to stop Biden supporting it

Last week, the International Court of Justice found that South Africa had made a “plausible” case that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza amounted to genocide. This week, a US District Court judge in California agreed. However, the judge in the case expressed regret that he could take no action on this case, brought on behalf of Palestinian human rights groups and several individual Palestinians.

Judge Jeffrey White wrote, “There are rare cases in which the preferred outcome is inaccessible to the court. This is one of those cases”. The plaintiffs were seeking an injunction against President Joe Biden, Sec. of State Antony Blinken, and Sec. of Defense Lloyd Austin, to bar them from further aiding and abetting Israel in committing genocide against Palestinians. Since Oct. 7, the Biden administration has forwarded millions of dollars worth of weapons to Israel (twice bypassing Congress to do so) and has twice used its veto in the UN Security Council to block binding resolutions for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Judge White found that it was not within his power to grant such an injunction, “because any determination to challenge the decision of the executive branch of government on support of Israel is fraught with serious political questions”. In other words, Judge White found such an order from a federal court would violate the separation of powers doctrine. However, White wrote that his court “implores [Biden, Blinken and Austin] to examine the results of their unflagging support of the military siege against the Palestinians in Gaza”.

US legal peril

Eventually, the ICJ will issue a full ruling as to whether Israel has violated the 1948 Genocide Convention. If the court finds that Israel has, in fact, committed a genocide, then the US’ military support for Israel would also plausibly be in violation of Article III(e) of the Genocide Convention, which criminalizes “complicity in genocide”.

The US also recently decided to withdraw hundreds of millions in funding from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) based on (so far unsubstantiated) allegations that about a dozen of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in Gaza were somehow “involved” in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. UNWRA not only provides life-saving support to Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants, it also provides services to 4 million other Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

By pulling UNRWA’s funding amidst this crisis, veteran human rights lawyer Francis Boyle says the US have plausibly violated Article II(c) of the Convention, which criminalizes actions by a state “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

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