WASHINGTON — Monthly payments of up to $300 per child didn’t go out Friday for the first time in six months, and some families may never see benefits as generous again.
Democrats are working to restore an expansion of child tax credits they enacted on a temporary basis last year. But they don’t have the votes to do so without curtailing the benefits to appease Democratic skeptic Sen. Joe Manchin III or at least 10 Senate Republicans.
The costly family benefit is a major reason why Manchin opposes his party’s sweeping $2.2 trillion budget reconciliation package. But Democrats are betting they’ll get a better deal by lobbying the West Virginia centrist to support the filibuster-proof package than working with Republicans.
A more modest child tax credit remains in place for the 2022 tax year, and beneficiaries can still claim half of the 2021 expansion that wasn’t sent out in the monthly checks starting Jan. 24 when tax filing season begins, helping to ease the pain.
But the lapse of bigger benefits paid monthly, which helped the poorest families the most, is one of Democrats’ biggest disappointments in what’s been a tough year since President Joe Biden took office with majorities in both chambers.
For now, Democratic leaders remain focused on winning over Manchin, rather than trying to work out a compromise with Senate Republicans even though several have expressed interest in expanding the current credit. A version that could win at least 10 GOP votes to pass the Senate could involve cutting off undocumented immigrants and maintaining work requirements, among other obstacles to a bipartisan deal.
“There has been no engagement on the part of Democratic leadership or the White House to discuss a bipartisan approach to helping kids in this country,” said Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who’s offered perhaps the most generous child benefit proposal on his side of the aisle. “They’re negotiating amongst themselves.”
The partisan approach started last March when Democrats used the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to pass a COVID-19 relief law, temporarily expanding the credit through 2021. That expansion, which increased the $2,000 per child benefit to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for older children, allowed families to receive the credits in monthly installments and made it fully refundable to households that owe no income tax.
The expired version is all but dead with Manchin pushing to add work requirements and limit the credit to lower-earning households. That leaves Democrats with two choices: Give into enough of Manchin’s demands or try to forge a bipartisan compromise.
While either approach will involve sacrifices Democrats don’t want to make, most are betting they’ll have an easier time convincing Manchin than 10 Republicans.