WASHINGTON – Lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle are pushing for a revival of the expanded child tax credit, but they are running into a familiar problem: They can’t agree on how to do it.
Democrats are advocating for a complete return of the expanded child tax credit from President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill while Republicans are spearheading their own version of the child tax credit − one that includes provisions for unborn children and expecting mothers which has received the backing of anti-abortion groups.
“Child tax credit works. I don’t know what needs to be changed,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., one of the Democratic lawmakers leading the push for the tax credit, told USA TODAY. “It worked beautifully: monthly basis, lifted 40% of kids out of poverty, decreased hunger by 66%. Why would we want to change it?”
But some Republicans who have vocalized their support for expanding the child tax credit said any version that would earn their support would have to be more narrow. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told USA TODAY he also wants assurances a tax credit would be “fully paid for.”
“I think a child tax credit can work but only if it’s fully paid for,” Romney said. Any more spending without at least “eliminating other programs,” he added, is “probably not gonna fly.”
Bringing back an expanded tax credit is one that garners support from voters on both sides. The expanded credit in 2021 under the Biden administration helped 5.3 million people — including 2.9 million children — out of poverty in 2021, according to a 2021 study conducted by the Democrats’ Joint Economic committee.
Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told USA TODAY that a number of his GOP colleagues who did not support the child tax credit later went on to lose reelection to Congress.
“Some of them are not here anymore, but we got it done,” he said.
More: Stimulus update: Child tax credit gets a new chance for $300 a month − and a $2,000 baby bonus
What is the expanded child tax credit?
Biden signed the expanded child tax credit into law under the American Rescue Plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. This expansion raised the yearly credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child for children over the age of six and from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under the age of six. The credit was fully refundable, which allowed children in families with little or no income to receive the full credit.
The expanded credit also raised the age limit previously capped at 16 and distributed checks monthly. It expired in 2021.
Since then, DeLauro and other Democratic lawmakers have pushed for its return.
“The expansion of the child tax credit has been the single greatest issue out of the Biden administration,” Rep Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., said in an interview with USA TODAY.
Torres has reintroduced the America Family Act with DeLauro and Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., which would make permanent the expanded and improved monthly child tax credit. He called the expiration of the expanded credit a “tragedy” for America’s children.
The American Family Act:
Makes the credit fully refundable, making it available to children in families left behind because of an earnings requirement
Continues the child tax credit of $3600 per year for children six years old or younger
Expands the credit to $3000 per year for children between the ages of 6-17
Allows families to receive the credit monthly
Expands the credit to U.S. territories
“Child poverty is a plague on the soul of our country,” Torres said, citing how it lowers school attendance rates, test scores, graduation rates and college admission rates.
In his district, which includes the Bronx, the expanded credit in 2021 helped cut child poverty by massive percentages, he said.
“We have the tools to eradicate child poverty, what has been lacking for far too long has been the political will,” he said.
Republicans pitch own version of expanded child tax credit
One GOP version sponsored by Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would further expand the child tax credit’s payments to include unborn children and their expecting mothers.
The Providing for Life Act, co-sponsored by Hinson and Rubio, would expand the refundable child tax credit to $4,500 per child under the age of six and provide up to $3,500 under the age of 18 for working families.
The proposed Republican legislation also includes language to increase anti-abortion resources and support federally-funded, faith-based organizations that provide social services.
Democrats, however, are unlikely to support legislation that expands protections for anti-abortion organizations.
Torres said he would resist any attempt to make child tax credit about the issue of abortion.
“It strikes me that the attempt to inject anti-choice politics into the CTC is in bad faith,” he said.
How would revival of the child tax credit work for you?
The current child tax credit prevents some children from receiving the full credit because a family’s income may be too low or because their parents are out of work, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The America Family Act reintroduced by DeLauro eliminates the earnings requirement to target families who were left behind − specifically Black and Latino children, children in single-parent families, rural families, children in larger families and families with young children.
Under the GOP-backed Providing for Life Act, working families would be eligible for the expanded credit.
Lawmakers seek bipartisanship
Rubio told USA TODAY he hopes there will be a bipartisan appetite in Congress for a revival of the child tax credit, but conceded they will first need to bridge disagreements between the two parties.
“Obviously, the differences will be some will want it bigger,” Rubio said. “And you’ve got people in my own party that fought me on this when we tried to do it the last time.”
Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, said he is a “big fan” of the child tax credit.
“In my view, the child tax credit should be targeted towards families who need the help and it should be targeted towards families in a way that actually promotes family stability,” Vance added.
But Democrats like Torres are cautiously optimistic that some type of expansion of the credit can pass with bipartisan support.
“There is a potential for bipartisan compromise around the child tax credit,” Torres said. “The question is what form it takes.”
Will the tax credit be used as a bargaining chip during spending negotiations?
Torres said it is possible reviving the expanded tax credit could be used in negotiations as Congress tees up for a spending fight this fall. He added that there may be other avenues, like tax extenders, that could also make the expanded credit permanent.
“How can we justify ending massive tax cuts to corporation or tax credits for corporations without expanding the child tax credits?” he said.
If Republicans want to improve tax credits for corporate America, Torres said then there needs to be child tax credits for America’s families with children.
“It ought to be a permanent part of the social contract,” he said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Child tax credit 2023?: What this stimulus check would mean for you