- Top Democrat Richard Neal said he will include child care and paid leave in the infrastructure bill.
- He proposed permanently expanding the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to cut child poverty.
- Republican lawmakers have argued that care economy measures don’t belong with infrastructure.
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The second part of the $4 trillion infrastructure plan President Joe Biden will unveil in the coming weeks includes funding for issues like universal pre-K and paid family and medical leave, and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal said that those issues belong in infrastructure and should be a top priority.
Neal sent a letter to Democratic committee members on Monday emphasizing the need to make Biden’s infrastructure plan a legislative reality as soon as possible. He said that along with rebuilding physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, it is also essential to remove the barriers to workforce participation caused by “the inadequacy of our caring infrastructure” through a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
“Child care needs to be a guarantee, not an expensive hassle that drives parents out of the workforce or makes them choose between wages and family,” Neal said. “We will make it easier for people to find the care that fits their specific needs. And we will put an end to a structure that depends on the exploitation of child care workers to make child care affordable, and increase wages for the essential workers helping raise the next generation.”
Neal also said he will give every worker the right to paid family and medical leave in the infrastructure bill, and if employers or states already have paid leave policies in place, the bill will provide support to maintain and improve them.
As Insider previously reported, the first part of Biden’s infrastructure plan includes significant funding for care economy measures, including $400 billion for home and community care, and the second half is expected to fund free community college, universal pre-K, a national paid leave initiative, tax credits aimed at cutting poverty, and more.
Whether care economy funding belongs in an infrastructure bill has been a source of disagreement among lawmakers. In a statement last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that while Biden could have drafted a “serious, targeted infrastructure plan” that would have received bipartisan support, “the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration.”
After releasing the statement, he said the next day that the bill will not get any Republican support in the Senate because it’s a “Trojan horse” for liberal priorities.
And on Thursday, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota voiced her opposition to plan, saying that it funds things that don’t qualify as infrastructure, naming housing and pipes as two examples.
However, the chair of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors Cecilia Rouse said on a CBS News interview on Saturday that infrastructure needs an upgraded definition – one that includes care economy issues – to better fit the 21st century.
Neal’s efforts to expand child care are not new, and in fact, have already received bipartisan support in Congress. Biden’s stimulus bill – passed without any Republican votes – included a one-year CTC and EITC expansion and up to $3,600 payments to parents, and on March 26, 41 Democratic senators sent a letter to Biden urging him to make the credits permanent, saying that ending efforts to reduce child poverty is “wrong and unacceptable.”
Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah said in a February statement that they support increasing the CTC, and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah proposed up to $350 in monthly cash benefits per child in February.
“Americans are counting on us to not only make jobs available at the end of this tunnel, but to vastly improve their working conditions,” Neal said. “We have the tools, the will, and now, we get to work.”