Put partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately
In December, Congress left town frustrated, finger-pointing and disappointed in themselves and for the country, at the work yet to be done. But the demoralization at their failure goes beyond Washington. In the wake of their inaction, Congress also left millions of American families at increased financial risk, since they now will no longer receive a monthly Child Tax Credit (CTC) check.
Sadly, we’ve been there. As a Republican and a Democrat who both recently served in Congress, we’ve seen firsthand how seemingly irreconcilable policy differences and party politics can halt the passage of even the most common-sense and popular policies. But with a New Year comes a new opportunity to come back to the table, to rise above partisanship, and to help American families survive an ongoing crisis.
While we cannot speak to every looming policy debate, and share disagreements ourselves on the need for different legislation moving through Washington, we believe Congress can and must come to a compromise to spare millions of families the tumult of falling into poverty in 2022 by restarting the monthly Child Tax Credit. The overwhelming wave of coronavirus omicron variant, the abrupt end of these payments, and ongoing inflation is a one-two-three punch families can’t take — and one Congress can stop.
In December, Democrats’ ambition to pass massive, far-ranging reforms on a myriad of subjects finally met a wall (even if temporary). The politics and ultimate fate of Build Back Better (BBB), the Biden administration’s wide-ranging initiative that includes a CTC extension, remain uncertain as Congress juggles competing priorities, and as the midterms loom.
For Democrats, it’s understandable that the friction between progressives’ desire for big change and moderates’ more measured appetites would lead to acrimony within the party, and that it has made the passage of the BBB that much more difficult. It is also understandable that Republicans feel reluctant to get involved in their opponents’ intra-party food fight, and to take on specific policy issues within the BBB that they may agree with in principle — even if they are broadly popular. What’s less believable, at least to American families, is how such a straightforward, bipartisan policy could so quickly become a victim to politics.
But just as the holiday season served as a call for us to care for those we love (as well as those we don’t), the new year can provide a much-needed resolution to the members of Congress of their sacred obligation to improve the lives of those they serve, in particular, those of the most vulnerable.
As of now, 40 million American families, many at the cusp of poverty, will no longer receive the monthly Child Tax Credit payments that have been supporting their households’ child-rearing costs. Since July, families have received $250 to $300 per child every month as a result of changes to the Child Tax Credit, a policy that has long held bipartisan support and was recently reformed to support families on a monthly basis instead of annually and to better support poor families. Many Republican senators for instance, including Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have recently shown that their ideas and approach to the CTC are not in fact so irreconcilably different from those of Democrats.
These essential payments, and the program, sunsetted on Jan. 1, despite the unrelenting challenge to the economy still posed by the coronavirus, while prices continue to rise. This is not a normal crisis. It is beneath our calling as public servants to starve families in the hopes of earning their votes.
By putting cash directly in the pockets of parents who need the help, the monthly CTC uniquely aligns with the philosophies and anti-poverty policy prescriptions of both Democrats and Republicans. A recent study by Humanity Forward and the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis highlights the tremendous, and unprecedented benefit delivered by the CTC for low income families. According to the study, 94 percent of parents planned to work the same amount or more thanks to the payments, which defray childcare obstacles to help parents work more. A recent CLASP survey found that 24 percent of parents are actually working more as a direct result of the payments. The vast majority of the money parents are receiving is going into food, utilities, rent, and childcare. Families are under less stress, they’re healthier, resisting drug abuse, and looking at brighter futures thanks to the payments.
While Democrats continue to negotiate the BBB, we believe the need for immediate help is far too great to leave to partisan politics alone. For the sake of the 40 million American families desperate for extended relief, every member of Congress should take seriously their oath to support these families and make a New Year’s resolution to enact a meaningful extension of the Monthly Child Tax Credit immediately. If Democrats cannot move a BBB package as soon as humanly possible, then they must work with Republicans to negotiate a stand-alone extension. Nothing else will do.
Ben McAdams is a Democrat and former U.S. representative from Utah. Dennis Ross is a Republican and former U.S. representative from Florida.
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