The trending topic in politics this week is the Inflation Reduction Act. This measure, spearheaded by the Democrats, is attempting to reduce climate change and invest in renewable energy. One measure on the bill was an insulin cap, which was struck down by the GOP. Senator Bernie Sanders recently attempted to add his own measure to the bill — expanding the child tax credit. It seems the odds are quite literally against him.
The child tax credit was a priority for Democrats during 2020 and 2021 as the public was still trying to grapple with COVID-19 and its variants. One measure put in place was the temporary expansion of the tax credit payments to $3.600 for those with eligible children. Many Americans received monthly payments between $250 and $300. A big benefit of the tax credit payments was that they reduced poverty levels for families making under $50,000 from 26 percent to 18.5 percent.
Bernie Sanders is the main supporter of the child tax credit expansion
Bernie Sanders is a supporter of another expansion of the tax credit. Sanders said, "Pathetically, the United States has the highest child poverty rate of almost any major country on Earth." He continued, adding "Unfortunately for the millions of working parents who benefited from this program, it expired in December." Though Sanders is independent, he caucuses with the Senate Democrats. It was assumed that since Democrats championed the original expansion, they would do the same in the new reconciliation bill.
However, Sanders faced opposition from both Republicans and Democrats on the issue. Joe Manchin in particular said he was against the measure because people in the state he represents used the payments for drugs. This would make West Virginia quite an outlier, since national data shows an estimated 47 percent of CTC recipients used payments for groceries, and 32 used it to pay down debt or build savings.
Bernie Sanders proposed to expand the tax credit to the next five months, which would be paid for by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent. Two Democrats, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Michael Bennet from Colorado, opposed Sanders the most aggressively, saying that trying to include the tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act would derail the entire bill. Brown said, "I ask my great colleagues to vote no because this will bring the bill down."
Will there be a child tax credit extension?
Sanders's measure was ultimately struck down by a 97 to 1 vote, with Sanders' being the only vote in favor of the bill. According to Business Insider, other measures that were dropped from the measure include: zero-tuition community college; Medicare expansion to cover dental, hearing, and vision along with home care for the elderly; affordable housing; and universal pre-kindergarten.
So, will the child tax credit be expanded? At the moment it seems highly unlikely. Given that Sanders couldn't get it included in the Inflation Reduction Act, a tax credit expansion will likely have to be introduced as a completely separate measure outside of the budget reconciliation process, which is filibuster-proof.
Sanders commented on "class warfare" saying that the government often says it can't afford things like money for childcare and universal healthcare, yet they can afford to give money to "private equity giants."