Manchin’s Push For Cuts To Child Tax Credit Comes As Big Surprise To Key Boosters

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 7: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., departs after a Democrat luncheon on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Oct. 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) sudden reversals against various policies in the reconciliation bill often come as unhappy surprises to his fellow Democrats. 

With the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), the policy’s crafter, told reporters months ago that she’d been keeping Manchin apprised and that he was open to it. Flash forward to last week, when Smith told CNN that Manchin had just let her know that he wouldn’t support it. 

Manchin’s reported major changes to the child tax credit are going the same way. He recently told the White House that he wants to enforce work requirements and set the family income cap at $60,000 according to an Axios report — less than half of the $150,000 cap to receive the full credit the policy included in the American Rescue Plan, which proponents hope to extend in reconciliation. 

The draconian cuts are news to some of the policy’s biggest champions. 

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), two of the credit’s leading proponents, told TPM Tuesday that he hadn’t shared those changes with them.

“I think what we have in place right now is very good, and I do not want to see a tax increase on those vulnerable Americans,” Merkley added.

Accepting a change that would strip so many families of their eligibility to receive the credit would be an awfully bitter pill for most Democrats to swallow; the policy is one of the most dearly-held provisions in the reconciliation package. 

“The Child Tax Credit as written is such an extraordinarily important effort,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told reporters. 

“I think we should make these programs more inclusive, not more constrained,” added Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to TPM.

Manchin maintains that he is ardently opposed to what he calls an “entitlement society,” advocating for means testing and other requirements to shrink the pool of people eligible for various benefits in the reconciliation package. 

In the case of the child tax credit, his requirements would boot as many as 190,000 children in his home state of West Virginia off the eligibility list, and would mean more than a quarter billion dollars lost in residents’ annual purchasing power, per the Washington Post.

A Columbia University report this August found that the enhanced child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan lifted three million children out of poverty in the month the first credit was dispersed. 

For most Democrats, limiting the effectiveness of such a policy will be an extremely painful concession. 

“The child tax credit is the beginning of the building of a new bond between government and kids and families,” Wyden said. “I’m all in to get this extended as long as we can.” 

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