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Biden Has a Problem: The Expanded Child Tax Credit Looks Dead

Joe Biden. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.
U.S. President Joe Biden reacts as he makes a statement about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas shortly after Biden returned to Washington from his trip to South Korea and Japan, at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

For a while in December, it looked like the expanded child tax credit might be in for a revival. The credit was enacted in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act and mandated direct monthly payments to most American families in the second half of 2021. The expanded credit succeeded in dramatically reducing childhood poverty nationwide. 

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The credit was only in place for that year only, and attempts to extend it past 2021, in President Biden’s Build Back Better spending package, failed to pass the Senate, thanks to the opposition of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin reportedly worried aloud that those receiving the credit would spend the money on drugs. 

The child tax credit reverted to its pre-2021 amounts starting in 2022, causing the child poverty progress to be reversed. The White House was able to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which included many of the provisions of Build Back Better, but the child tax credit expansion was left out. 

Then, in the lame-duck session of Congress in December, there was talk that the 2021-era credit could be revived in some form. Politico reported in mid-December that talks were underway to possibly bring the credit back, although the report calls the efforts a “long shot.” The idea would be to require work requirements for the credit — the lack of which was a key Manchin reason for opposing it — in exchange for concessions to Republicans and to pass such a compromise as part of the year-end spending omnibus. 

“President Biden strongly supports the Child Tax Credit expansion he signed into law,” the White House told Politico, adding that the president “welcomes a conversation with anyone — Democrat or Republican — who has tax relief ideas to help families and children.”

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and the omnibus passed last week as the last bit of business in the current Congress, without the expanded child tax credit included. 

CNN explained what happened. Namely, Democrats and progressive activists failed to get the provision included in the bill. 

“Republican leaders decided to send a lump of coal to America’s children this year,” Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, long an advocate for the expanded credit, told CNN. “We know that the most significant step Congress can take to help America’s children is to support an expanded Child Tax Credit. When Congress took action on this in 2021, we cut childhood poverty in America in half.”

The same week, Annie Lowery published a tribute to the credit in The Atlantic. the piece pointed out that while the credit changed many lives, it didn’t end up becoming a big part of electoral politics, with Democrats not running on it in a huge way in the 2022 midterms. Doing so would have been complicated, especially since the Democrats weren’t able to keep the policy going. 

“Why doesn’t anyone care about the expanded child tax credit? A $100 billion policy—effective, important, elegantly designed, competently managed, and noncontroversial—is gone, at least for now. And nobody, save for a few politicians and wonks, seems to have noticed or to care,” Lowery wrote. “Did Democrats crow about it in their recent campaign ads? No. Did it sway many swing voters in the midterms? No. Have large protests pushed for the policy’s reinstatement? No. Many studies suggest, as does common sense, that handing out all that money should have helped Democrats at the polls. Somehow, it did not.

Could the credit be revived in the new Congress?

The Democrats will have an additional Senator if Sen. Krysten Sinema indeed caucuses with them after leaving the party, although they have lost control of the House. So such a credit would seem unlikely to pass unless some major bipartisan grand bargain can be struck between the parties. CNN, however, stated that the failure of the passage of the credit in this Congress “effectively ends its chances of passage, at least in the near future.”

Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.