Powerful Democrats push back on one-year extension of child tax credit
A host of powerful Democrats are lining up on Wednesday to insist on a long-term extension of the child tax credit as part of President Biden’s economic agenda.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) had ushered large parts of the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion social spending wish list through the Ways and Means Committee last month, including an expansion of the child tax credit through 2025. And he’s pressing party leaders to keep that timeline as negotiators draft the final package.
“We’re going to continue to fight for the House position,” Neal told reporters following a closed-door meeting of the Democratic caucus in the Capitol.
“The process that we undertook here was to do a markup. We didn’t have a new tax plan every half hour; we laid out a plan that was fully paid for; and we set out our priorities,” Neal added. “I think family paid medical leave, I think that the child [tax] credit, I think the dependent care credit — and the Green Act, for sure — ought to remain in the final package as issued.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), head of the powerful Appropriations Committee, was even more terse.
“A one-year extension is a big mistake,” she said, vowing to “continue to pressure for a new framework that’s more enduring for children and for families.”
The ardent position of Neal and DeLauro, which was echoed by a number of other influential Democrats, suggests a looming clash within the Democratic Party as Biden and leaders seek to trim the cost of the initial $3.5 trillion plan to win the support of moderate fiscal hawks.
Biden had huddled with a number of lawmakers from both chambers on Tuesday in an aggressive effort to break the months-long impasse over the huge social benefits package at the center of his domestic policy wish list. During those meetings, he suggested the four-year child tax credit championed by the Ways and Means Democrats would be clipped, perhaps to as little as one year.
“It’s not going to be as long as I think some of us would have hoped,” said Rep. Ami Bera (Calif.), a moderate Democrat who participated in one of the White House meetings. “So it does get shortened and probably ends up around one year.”
It wasn’t only liberals who were opposed to that change.
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), chair of the business-friendly New Democrat Coalition who also met Tuesday with Biden, said the group is continuing to push for the expanded credit to be extended until at least 2025, as Biden had proposed earlier this year.
“My point to the president was how important it is that we have long-term policies, that we do things well, so that we are able to give people that certainty going forward,” she said.
That message is also being delivered by top House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), who have advocated for a strategy of “doing fewer things better” as negotiators decide where to cut costs within the massive social benefits package.
Despite the lingering divisions, there has been a noticeable change in the tone of the debate this week, since Biden took the step of calling lawmakers to the White House and pitching specific policy recommendations — including suggested spending amounts for each policy bucket.
“The president is being very clear about the direction we’re going in, where he wants to go, and it’s that kind of leadership that’s going to get us to the finish line,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), a liberal who also met with Biden this week.
“My guess is [that] if the discussions continue the way that they are with the president and Nancy’s leadership, we will have the outlines by the end of the week.”
Even some of those voicing reservations about the truncated child tax credit acknowledged the need for compromise if Biden is to find unanimous Democratic support for his domestic agenda.
“Clearly, the president’s focus understandably is getting 50 votes in the Senate and getting 218 and that’s something we all got to work towards,” said DelBene, “so I think we’re having the key discussions that need to happen to get us to closure.”