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Thune: Doubling child tax credit will have 'tremendous impact' for families

U.S. Sen. John Thune, right, delivers remarks while U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, left, listens during a panel called "Check-in From Washington, D.C." during Dakotafest in 2016 in Mitchell.(Matt Gade/Republic)

South Dakota's senior U.S. Sen. John Thune sees a major windfall for average American families under the Senate Republican tax reform plan.

As the bill works its way through the Senate, Thune said remaining concerns about the tax relief bill are being addressed and amendments are being considered. And within the plan that slashes most individual tax brackets and the corporate tax, Thune acknowledged the child tax credit isn't getting a ton of attention.

Under the Senate GOP plan, the maximum child tax credit would double from $1,000 annually per child to $2,000, which Thune said is one of the main benefits within the bill for South Dakota families.

"And we did — by doubling the child tax credit in the bill — I think provide a tremendous amount of relief to families trying to raise kids in this country," Thune said in an interview with The Daily Republic on Thursday morning.

But the bill wouldn't make the credit entirely refundable for some families.

Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, of Florida, and Mike Lee, of Utah, pitched an amendment that would make the whole $2,000 per child credit refundable to families who don't owe taxes at the end of the year. And while Thune appreciates what Rubio and Lee are trying to achieve, he said the portion of that plan that lowers the corporate tax rate to 22 percent instead of 20 percent would have implications throughout the rest of the bill.

On the other end of the spectrum, Thune said some people have expressed concerns about increasing the maximum child tax credit to $2,000, citing the potential fiscal impact. But, using a South Dakota family of four with a combined income of $73,000 as an example, Thune said the plan would lead to a 60 percent tax reduction compared to today. And the child tax credit is a major contributor.

"But a lot of that has to do with if they've got two kids," Thune said. "I mean, that's $4,000 right there."

South Dakota's other U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, a Republican, also sees advantages within the bill for average Americans.

"I haven't seen any recent numbers based upon the current projections, but clearly this is really going to help the average American consumer," Rounds said in a media call Thursday.

Although it could be a boost to the average consumer, the plan is expected to raise the deficit by $1 trillion, according to a Thursday Congressional estimate.

Like Rounds, Thune was optimistic about the Senate bill, but Thune added that Washington, D.C. distractions aren't exactly helping the cause.

On Thursday, reports started swirling that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could be replaced. Thune spoke well of Tillerson's body of work, but said the Senate is aiming to focus on the bill in front of them.

"It does seem like there's a distraction a minute around here, or at least a distraction an hour," Thune said. "But in spite of all that, we're trying to keep our eye on the ball and keep focused on marshalling this particular bill to the finish line."