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The relentlessly negative Senate race in Nevada that pits incumbent Democratic leader Harry Reid and Republican challenger Sharron Angle continued with Angle's release of a new ad on Sept. 14, 2010.
The ad targets Reid's record on illegal immigration, calling him "the best friend an illegal alien ever had."
In this item, we'll focus on the part where the narrator says, "Harry Reid -- he votes to give special tax breaks to illegal aliens...." We'll check whether Reid voted "to give illegals Social Security" in a separate item.
The ad itself doesn't list citations or other supporting evidence for the claim about tax breaks, but the Angle campaign provided us with a backup document after we asked for one. Here are the key pieces of evidence they cite, all of which are votes on amendments to bills.
1. A May 25, 2006, amendment by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., that was offered during the debate over an immigration reform bill that would have created a path to legal status for illegal immigrants. Sessions' amendment was designed to prohibit illegal immigrants, and illegal immigrants who would have secured legal status under the bill, from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC is a three-decade old provision of the tax code that encourages low-income Americans to work by giving them refundable tax credits when they earn money from being employed. It is available to taxpayers whose income falls below a certain threshold.
The amendment was defeated, with just 37 votes in favor. Reid voted against the amendment, along with 21 Republicans.
However, this amendment was not actually targeted directly at illegal aliens, as the ad suggests. It targeted two groups -- illegal immigrants (who were already barred by existing law from collecting the EITC) and former illegal aliens who would have been able to secure legal status under the bill (and thus would not have been illegal any more).
This vote also carries with it a separate problem for Angle. It's not clear to us that the vote was about providing "special tax breaks," as the ad termed it. To us, a "special tax break" implies a special status granted by the government. In reality, what the amendment said it would do is take away a right for which these taxpayers would have otherwise qualified -- creating a "special tax penalty," if you will. You can disagree over the merits of the amendment, but we don't buy that Reid's vote against it amounted to supporting a "special tax break."
2. Another amendment offered on May 25, 2006 during the immigration debate, this one by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. This amendment was designed to bar illegal immigrants applying for legal status from receiving "any tax refund for any taxable year prior to 2006, or to file any claim for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or any other tax credit otherwise allowable under the tax code."
The amendment passed, 50-47, with Reid -- and 11 Republicans -- voting against it.
This amendment comes closer to the ad's claim of being aimed at illegal immigrants: It affected illegal immigrants who would have been able to apply for legal status had the bill passed, and who then might have eventually become legal.
But the amendment has the same problem of not really being a "special tax break." In addition, Vote 2 did something else entirely -- it prevented illegal immigrants applying for legal status from receiving a refund, which means they would be unable to get back from the IRS the money that they had overpaid as taxes.
3. An amendment offered during the following year's immigration debate by Reid himself. The June 6, 2007, amendment was intended to clarify that nothing in the immigration overhaul or its amendments would change the Internal Revenue Code's prohibition on illegal aliens qualifying for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The amendment passed, 57-40, with Reid, and eight Republicans, voting for it.
This amendment seems to reiterate the existing prohibition on illegal immigrants earning the EITC, countering the Angle camp's claim rather than supporting it.
4. Finally, an amendment offered on June 6, 2007, by Sessions. The amendment would prohibit those who were granted "Y" visas under the bill's temporary guest worker program from claiming the EITC.
The amendment passed, 56-41, with Reid, along with six Republicans, voting against it.
This amendment was aimed at people who had been granted legal status as temporary work visa holders -- not illegals, so it doesn't seem very relevant to a discussion of votes that aided illegal aliens. (We should add that neither the 2006 nor 2007 immigration reform bills became law.)
So, how persuasive are these four examples of Reid voting "to give special tax breaks to illegal aliens"? They didn't persuade us.
We'll agree that it's fair for Angle to paint Reid as something less than Draconian in his stance toward former illegal immigrants. However, we find little to support the charge that Reid voted to "give special tax breaks to illegal aliens." Most of the Angle camp's cited votes were actually aimed at people in the U.S. legally (even though they may formerly have been illegal), and in at least two cases, we disagree that what was being voted on represented a "special tax break" at all. The combination of these concerns lead us to rate this claim False.
Sharron Angle for Senate, backup information on "Best Friend" television ad, Sept. 14, 2010
Harry Reid for Senate, critique of Sharron Angle's "Best Friend" television ad, Sept. 15, 2010
U.S. Senate, roll call vote on Sessions amendment 4108, May 25, 2007
U.S. Senate, text of amendment 4108, May 25, 2007
U.S. Senate, roll call vote on Ensign amendment 4136, May 25, 2006
U.S. Senate, text of Ensign amendment 4136, May 25, 2006
U.S. Senate, text of Reid amendment 1331, June 6, 2007
U.S. Senate, roll call vote on Sessions amendment 1234, June 6, 2007
U.S. Senate, text of Sessions amendment 1234, June 6, 2007
Text of 2006 immigration bill
Internal Revenue Service, Earned Income Tax Credit home page, accessed Sep. 16, 2010
E-mail interview with Jerry Stacy, spokesman for Sharron Angle, Sep. 16, 2010
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