WASHINGTON – Democrats built a landmark new benefit package into their pandemic relief bill earlier this year.
But in doing so, they planted an election year time bomb for their own party, and their only realistic hope of defusing it in time is to pass President Joe Biden’s welfare spending bill.
At the center of the US bailout is a monthly payment structured like a tax credit for the vast majority of families – $ 300 per child under 6 or $ 250 per child 6 to 17. The advantage has been well received in polls, and studies indicate it quickly lifted millions of American children out of poverty.
But there is a catch: it is only authorized for 2021. Payments end in December unless extended. With opposition from Republicans, the only realistic vehicle to expand them is Biden’s multibillion-dollar bill, which Democratic leaders are feverishly working to craft.
Letting the payments expire would risk erasing the economic gains and leaving the troubled parents who have come to depend on them. Democratic agents warn it could turn a significant political asset into a liability just months before an election in which Republicans are historically favored for gains.
“Letting the hugely popular child care tax credit expire would be exactly the type of mistake we can’t afford,” said Tyler Law, a Democratic consultant who worked for the party’s election wing during the election. the blue wave of 2018.
“Democrats must win victory after victory to show voters that we can govern and deserve to stay in power,” he said. “There is no quick fix for success, but there is certainly a recipe for disaster: failing the Biden agenda. “
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Said the child tax credit has had a major impact on poverty reduction and cited it as an example that Democrats, when in charge , can help Americans.
“The idea of letting it expire, I think, would be horrible,” he said.
Democrats grappling with details
As Democrats fight over which provisions to include in the bill, they seem to unanimously agree that the children’s money should be extended – from centrists like Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., to progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
But the details are unclear. The House version of the bill extends payments until 2025. This could be adjusted as lawmakers determine how to lower the price of the plan to rally the centrists. And the income threshold for eligible people can be adjusted as Manchin demanded additional means tests for the various programs in the bill.
“There are differences of opinion on how to do it, and how long to fund it, etc. And that has to fit into the overall top line of the bill, ”said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., Said. “But every Dem really wants this to happen.”
Republicans are adamantly opposed to the program and say it should expire.
“The federal government shouldn’t just hand out money because you have kids,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. “It’s ridiculous.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, accused Democrats of “trying to create a permanent social class in the country,” saying the child tax credit includes “distributing more borrowed money to people who do not need it “.
Some Democrats are spoiling themselves for this fight.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DN.Y., chairman of the party’s campaign arm in the House, said Democrats would pass the bill, extend cash payments for children, and then execute them.
“We will get there,” he said. “And the fact that Republicans opposed it every step of the way will come back to haunt them.” I believe it’s exactly that sort of thing that’s the anvil we’re going to hammer them on in 2022. “
“Key persuasion gains”
Sean McElwee, a progressive pollster who was quoted by the White House, said his company found voters who received the children’s cash payment approve of Biden’s performance by a wide margin of 66% to 32%, while voters who did not get it split equally with 49% approval and disapproval.
The company, Data for Progress, found that those who voted for then-President Donald Trump in 2020 and receive the child tax credit recorded 79% disapproval of Biden, while 92% of those who do not receive it disapprove of the president.
“Ending the child tax credit would risk erasing these key persuasive gains that will be needed to win in 2022 and 2024,” McElwee said.
Overall, children’s cash payments are supported by 59% of American adults, according to a recent Reuters / Ipsos poll. This includes 75 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans.
Some of the states with the highest average monthly cash payments are conservative states.
Progressives cite the program as an example of how the government can improve the lives of Americans.
“We already have powerful data showing us that this tax credit is reducing hunger in America. It provides school shoes and backpacks for children to return to school, ”said Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “We need to protect this – not just because it expires in an election year. We have to protect it because it helps American families. “