Democrat seeks to incorporate child protection into infrastructure bill

Senior Senate Democrat wants to include money for health care, child care and nutrition as part of President Joe Biden’s signature infrastructure legislation, paving the way for a battle with Republicans who say such a measure should focus on roads, bridges and other needs.

Senator Bob casey, Chairman of the Child and Family Health, Education, Work and Pensions Subcommittee, could package of proposals from next week. The framework will also address child abuse and wealth inequalities.

In the absence of Republican support, Casey (Pa.) And his fellow Democrats are counting on passing new major spending proposals through reconciliation, a process that allows the Senate to pass bills related to the simple majority budget. Democrats should use this tactic to advance their infrastructure, jobs and social spending priorities, avoiding an obstruction that can block votes.

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Senator Bob Casey arrives on Capitol Hill for a vote on May 18, 2020.

Casey’s focus on the infrastructure package reflects Democrats’ limited chances of spending major new spending. They will need a unified caucus in the 50-50 chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking any tie.

Meanwhile, talks between Biden and GOP lawmakers led by Sen. Shelley Moore Captain (W.Va.) on a bipartisan surface transportation bill stalled earlier this week after the two sides failed to agree on further spending and tax increases desired by the White House. A separate group of Republican and Democratic senators on Thursday approved a $ 1.2 trillion plan that is limited to basic physical infrastructure.

Biparty Senate group seals $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure deal

The federal response to Covid-19 over the past year included billions of dollars in new spending on everything from unemployment insurance and wages for closed businesses, to stimulus checks and expanded tax credits. Casey first laid out his legislative framework before the pandemic and wants to build on federal assistance with permanent benefits for children.

“If we want to outperform China, we have to invest in children. If we want to have the most skilled workforce in the world, we need to invest in children, ”he said. “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing for the economy.”

Tax credits, money added

Casey’s plan uses a mix of tax credits and increased federal spending for programs like child care and nutrition. Among them:

  • Permanent extension of the child tax credits adopted in the US bailout (Public law 117-2) which expire at the end of the year. The Covid Relief Bill expanded child tax credits from $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 per child and $ 3,600 for children under 6. He also extended the tax credit to 17 year olds.
  • Automatically grant Medicaid eligibility for all children up to age 18. Currently, Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program covers about 80% of low-income children, but 4 million were still uninsured before the pandemic.
  • Sending new funds to states for child care and Head Start programs for early childhood education. This money would complement Sen legislation. Patty murray (D-Wash.) Introduced to expand access to child care (S. 1360).
  • Create $ 500 savings accounts for children from low- and middle-income families.

“Thinking about children holistically makes a lot of sense,” said Julie Kashen, director of women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank that supports economic, racial and gender equity. “When it comes to kids, we often say that we only have the money to do one of these things. The reality is that we need to be much broader in our thinking. “

The biggest increase Casey is proposing will likely be a permanent extension of the child tax credit extension, the senator said, due to the constraints of accommodating multiple priorities through reconciliation.

The White House has backed a five-year extension of the tax credit as part of another major spending program, which has failed to respond to Senate Democrats’ demands that the extension be permanent.

‘Last train’

Biden has offered dual infrastructure packages, one focusing on traditional infrastructure spending such as roads, bridges and workforce development, while the other offers social spending, including child care and free community college. The two packages, dubbed the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, would exceed more than $ 4 trillion in new spending.

Major committees have yet to release legislation for the two plans as the White House seeks an infrastructure deal with Republicans. Even if a bipartisan deal emerges, the price tag would likely not be the kind of spending Democrats want on social programs, Casey said.

Legislation advancing White House infrastructure plans offers the best chance over the next few years to advance family allowances, Casey said.

“The biggest opportunity for the next few years would be a combination of jobs and families,” he said. “This reconciliation bill could be the last train to leave the station for a long time on these issues.”

GOP support

A spokesperson for Sen. Bill Cassidy (La.), The top Republican on the children and families subcommittee, did not respond to a request for comment on the plan. GOP lawmakers have criticized the White House infrastructure plans as overpriced liberal wishlists.

Senator Jean Barrasso (Wyo.), One of the Republican negotiators working on an infrastructure deal, blamed the White House’s lack of progress this week for refusing to moderate Biden’s demands for increased spending and taxes.

GOP’s Biden and Capito end infrastructure talks without a deal

The downside to pursuing policies without the support of Republicans is that they may not clarify the rules of reconciliation, which require that any provision of the law relate directly to federal revenues and expenditures, said Linda Smith, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center Early Childhood Development Initiative.

“We’ve had really good bipartisan support for child care in particular, but early years across the board,” she said. “We would really like this to continue. “

Casey said he hopes to gain bipartisan support but does not envision meaningful support from the GOP, which makes reconciliation even more critical to adopting a comprehensive strategy for the well-being of children.

“We have already moved the ball forward, at least through the initial investment,” he said. “We need to strike hard when the attention of the nation and that of policymakers is focused on major initiatives.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Kreighbaum in Washington at akreighbaum@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anna yukhanov at ayukhananov@bloombergindustry.com; Robin meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com


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