WASHINGTON — Following up here on a column I did earlier this month on the possibility of an anti-abortion related provision — to allow a tax-free college savings account opened for a fetus — ending up in the tax bill.
It never happened.
The sweeping federal tax code overhaul President Donald Trump signed into law last Friday morning before heading to Mar-a-Lago did not include the ploy.
Here’s what happened.
In order to open a 529 plan — named after a section of the IRS code — the beneficiary has to have a Social Security number.
The House version of the tax legislation dealing with 529s said that there is nothing to bar “an unborn child from qualifying as a designated beneficiary.”
Unborn was defined in the House bill as a “child in utero and the term child in utero means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue called this “dangerous personhood language.”
Planned Parenthood, before the House vote, said, “The true intention of this measure? To advance an agenda designed to undermine women’s health and rights. Extreme GOP politicians are so hell-bent on attacking the constitutional right to abortion that they’re trying to sneak one into a tax bill. Pathetic, right?”
This was just a sneaky way to put on the books the “personhood” legal definition anti-abortion forces craved via legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code. It was a maneuver to set the stage to chip away at Roe v. Wade.
States run their own 529 programs. As Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs noted when he came to D.C. to fight this provision, anyone who wants to get a running start on a college savings account for an unborn child can simply open one up — name yourself the beneficiary — and switch the beneficiary later on.
The Senate version dealing with 529 accounts didn’t include the language about an unborn child.
When House and Senate negotiators hammered out their differences in the GOP tax bill, the Senate version prevailed.
Before anyone calls this a great victory for the abortion rights side, consider that the Senate had little choice but to ignore this trick.
The Senate has many arcane rules, and one of them is the “Byrd Rule,” named after the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., a master of Senate procedures.
Most Senate measures need 60 votes to pass.
In its essence, the Byrd rule states that in order for the Senate to pass legislation reconciling the House and Senate versions of a bill with a simple majority, there can be no extraneous matters. There are only 52 Senate Republicans. No Senate Democrats were for this tax bill.
Indeed, the House had to revote the tax bill because the Senate Parliamentarian stripped out several provisions that violated the Byrd rule.
Since I’m on the topic . . .
* Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., is a staunch abortion foe, one of the leading anti-abortion Democrats in Congress. He will be one of the speakers at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington on Jan. 19.
Heading toward the March Illinois Democratic primary, business consultant Marie Newman, who supports abortion rights, may be giving Lipinski his toughest challenge in years.
Abortion is ripening as a major factor in this contest for the 3rd Congressional District, taking in parts of Chicago’s Southwest Side and Southwest suburban turf.
And before I go . . .
ICYMT . . . Merriam-Webster deemed feminism the Word of the Year for 2017.
“The word was a top lookup throughout the year, with several spikes that corresponded to various news reports and events,” the dictionary folks said.
That’s the Women’s March on Washington; White House adviser Kellyanne Conway saying she wasn’t a feminist; Wonder Woman, the movie; and the #MeToo movement born from the stories about sexual harassment.
It’s been awhile, feminism. Welcome back.