Congress just passed $858 billion military budget, but GOP is blocking $12 billion to fight child poverty

"This isn't using our taxpayer dollars wisely," said one analyst. "It's robbing programs that we need."

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SOURCECommon Dreams

Congressional Republicans happily teamed up with Democrats this month to authorize $858 billion in military spending for the next fiscal year, but the GOP is refusing to even consider proposals to revive the Child Tax Credit expansion that lifted millions of kids out of poverty last year—even though bringing the program back would cost a fraction of the Pentagon outlay.

A spokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told HuffPost earlier this week that Republicans have thus far been unwilling to negotiate over the Child Tax Credit (CTC) boost, which they unanimously opposed when it was enacted as part of the American Rescue Plan last year.

“Republicans have refused to engage at all on the Child Tax Credit,” said Ashley Schapitl. “In fact they made clear they would not negotiate on any deal that includes the child tax credit.”

Leading Republicans readily confirmed their refusal to consider the CTC boost as part of an end-of-year tax package. With the 60-vote Senate filibuster intact, Democrats need the support of at least 10 Republicans to revive the expanded CTC in some form.

“As of right now there’s no support for that on the Republican side,” Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, told HuffPost.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), one of the 176 House Republicans who voted in favor of the $858 billion National Defense Authorization Act last week, declared that “the country frankly doesn’t have the time or the money for the partisan, expensive provisions such as [the] Child Tax Credit.”

The 2021 program, which expanded the existing CTC to include the poorest families and sent out payments of up to $3,600 per child in monthly increments, spurred a historic drop in the obscenely high U.S. child poverty rate before it expired at the end of last year, thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and the GOP’s opposition to extending the benefit.

The boosted CTC’s expiration has pushed millions of children back into poverty and caused a significant jump in hunger, heightening the sense of urgency among campaigners and many Democratic lawmakers seeking to reinstate the program.

“The expanded Child Tax Credit reduced child poverty by more than 40%. It cut child hunger by a third,” said the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “Working-class families need this relief now, and Congress has a chance to bring it back before the end of this year. Progressives will keep fighting to get this done.”

In an attempt to jumpstart negotiations, Democrats have said they would be willing to entertain a slate of corporate tax cuts that the GOP wants to enact before the end of the year.

But even the prospect of delivering another major windfall to large companies hasn’t proved sufficiently enticing for Republicans to suspend their longstanding opposition to government anti-poverty programs.

Congressional Democrats and the Biden White House have also suggested they would accept a more limited version of the 2021 CTC boost, potentially including more strict work requirements and other eligibility limits—which progressives oppose. Such concessions have apparently failed to sway Republicans.

Following the lapse of the expanded program in December 2021, the CTC reverted back to its previous form, which includes smaller payments and a regressive phase-in that prevents the poorest families from obtaining the benefit.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that eliminating the phase-in and allowing the low-income families that are ineligible under current law to receive the full CTC benefit would cost roughly $12 billion a year.

By comparison, the House and Senate voted this month to increase U.S. military spending by $90 billion dollars over Fiscal Year 2022 levels.

“This isn’t using our taxpayer dollars wisely. It’s robbing programs that we need, like the discontinued Child Tax Credit expansion that cut child poverty by half,” Lindsay Koshgarian, director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote in a recent blog post. “The only winners here are the military contractors who commandeer roughly half of the Pentagon’s budget in any given year.”

Congress has until next week to approve a funding package to avert a government shutdown, meaning time is running out for a last-ditch CTC push.

The stakes are massive. As CBPP noted earlier this month, “Without an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (and with the expiration of various other relief measures), child poverty is likely to return to about the same level as it was pre-pandemic—pushing millions of children back into poverty.

“Policymakers can expand the Child Tax Credit, or they can fail to act and see the Rescue Plan’s historic gains against child poverty evaporate,” the think tank warned.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said Tuesday that he’s “fighting to get the expanded Child Tax Credit passed before the end of the year.”

“It reduced child poverty and helped families make ends meet,” the senator added. “We must get it done.”

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