Senate Democrats urge Biden to get beefed-up child tax credit into spending deal

A group of Senate Democrats is urging President Biden to get a beefed-up child tax credit included as part of any agreement on a sweeping climate and social spending bill.

Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Cory Booker (N.J.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) sent Biden and Vice President Harris a letter on Wednesday pushing for the inclusion of an expanded child tax credit in a deal on Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

“We respectfully ask you to work to extend the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) as a centerpiece of the legislation,” the senators wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill ahead of its release.

The Democratic senators added that they are ready to work with the administration “to extend this critical investment in American families and children as part of the Build Back Better package.”

Democrats temporarily expanded the child tax credit in early 2021 as part of a sweeping coronavirus relief package enacted to provide $3,600, or $300 per month, for children under 6 and $3,000, or $250 per month, for children 6 through 17 and to broaden the number of families who were eligible.

But millions of families stopped receiving child tax credit payments this month after Congress failed to pass an extension of the expanded credit.

The Democratic senators said in their letter the expanded child tax credit “represents the biggest investment in American families and children in a generation” and is “a signature domestic policy achievement of this administration, and has been an overwhelming success.”

“The consequences of failing to extend the CTC expansion are dire, particularly as families face another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. … Raising taxes on working families is the last thing we should do during a pandemic,” they added.

Discussions on extending the expanded child tax credit were tied to Democrats’ Build Back Better legislation. That bill hit a wall in the Senate after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said during an interview late last year that he couldn’t support the roughly $2 trillion version of the bill that passed the House.

Democrats are hoping to revive a scaled-down version of the legislation, though they’ve been careful not to set a hard deadline for passing the revised bill.

“The overwhelming majority of that piece of legislation is supported by 50 Democratic United States senators, and they’ve said so,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on a Zoom call hosted by Politico. “There are some things that they don’t support, and we haven’t moved ahead on that. But we need to keep working on that, and we need to get it done.”

Biden also opened the door last week to trying to pass a scaled-down version of the legislation.

But it’s not clear that an extension of the expanded child tax credit could make it into the bill. Manchin has pushed for including a work requirement if it gets included in the Build Back Better legislation.

Because Democrats are trying to pass the spending bill under ​budget reconciliation rules, they need total unity from all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus to pass the bill without any GOP support.

“Make sure the people that need it get it, that’s all,” Manchin said during a recent interview with WVMetroNews’s Hoppy Kercheval.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) told reporters this month that he’s received no word from Biden or the White House that the enhanced child tax credit is being cut out of a scaled-back bill.

“We need to determine what Joe Manchin is in favor of,” Neal said. “I certainly am not ready to throw in the towel on it.”  

But Manchin told reporters last week that the White House hadn’t yet started negotiating with him on what a smaller bill would look like. And Biden appeared to acknowledge that issues including extending the child tax credit and funding for the cost of community college are going to be difficult to get passed.

“There’s two really big components that I feel strongly about that I’m not sure I can get in the package,” he told reporters this month. “One is the child care tax credit, and the other is help for cost of community colleges.”