Progressives think Biden's latest $1.8T families plan isn't big enough
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., on President Biden’s first joint address to Congress and his administration’s agenda.
Progressives on Wednesday viewed President Biden's latest spending plan on families as a good start, but said the $1.8 trillion proposal is still too small to provide a necessary safety net for the American public.
Biden's tax and spending plan makes major new investments in education, child care and paid family leave and is funded by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. But the plan didn't go far enough on universal child care, free college tuition, health care and child tax credits, according to some Democrats who wanted a more sweeping proposal.
New York Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres, a major backer of the expanded child tax credit, said Biden's proposal fell short because he failed to permanently extend the payment to parents.
"The American Families Plan is incomplete without a permanent child tax credit," Torres told Fox News Wednesday. "We are in the midst of an FDR moment, which comes only once a century. If we let our FDR moment pass us by, without making the child tax credit permanent, we will live to regret it."
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash, in a 2019 file photo. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the House Progressive Caucus, had previously led an effort with more than 80 House Democrats to urge Biden to include an expansion of Medicare in his family-focused spending proposal. But Biden's plan didn't do anything to lower the Medicare eligibility age as they requested, and Jayapal said that's the "wrong approach."
"The proposed plan has many first good steps — but now is the time to go BIG and BOLD," Jayapal tweeted. "Let’s deliver for people across America."
Biden's latest $1.8 trillion proposal, dubbed the American Families Plan, is the second piece of Biden's Build Back Better agenda, a wide-ranging economic proposal that includes the $2.3 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan released earlier this month.
His plan includes free universal pre-school for all 3- and 4-year-olds; establishment of a 12-week paid family and medical leave program; two free years of a community college education and new investments in child care and tax credits to help working families.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., called Biden's proposal a "strong plan" especially for its emphasis on universal preschool education. Khanna had hoped the president's free college proposal would have been for four years of public education instead of just two years of community college, but the progressive lawmaker called the investment in education a "step in the right direction."
Still, Khanna said Biden must address Medicare expansion in a third proposal since he left it out of this plan. Khanna is among the lawmakers who signed onto Jayapal's letter asking Biden to lower the qualifying age for the senior health care program to age to 55 or 60 and to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
"Expanding Medicare is something that we ought to be committed to as a party," Khanna told Fox News. "Obviously there's some of us who believe in Medicare-for-all ... but even if we are disagreeing on the specifics, we can agree that expansion is important. I'm hopeful that that will all be tackled in a third proposal."
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna speaks at a climate rally in Iowa City, Iowa, Jan. 12, 2020. (REUTERS/Scott Morgan)
Khanna added: "We've had the physical infrastructure [proposal]. Now we see some of the human infrastructure. I think there has to be a third vision of health care."
Other Democrats believe Biden needed to go bigger on universal child care.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other progressives had been pushing Biden to include a $700 billion investment in child care centers that would guarantee that low-income families had free child care and other families would have to pay more than 7% of their income for these public child care options.
But Biden's proposal calls for a fraction of that amount -- $225 billion -- for child care and only makes the 7% pledge to lower-income families.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., conducts a news conference in the Capitol to introduce the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act which would tax high net worth households on Monday, March 1, 2021. Warren had wanted President Biden's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan to include her $700 billion proposal for universal child care. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Rep. Mondaire Jones, who co-sponsored the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act with Warren, said Biden's plan is a good "starting point" but needs to spend more.
"What progressives and people beyond progressives want to see is a ramping up in the level of investment with respect to the child care proposal that President Biden has made," Jones told MSNBC on Wednesday.
Another plan that fell short in the eyes of certain Democrats was the child tax credit.
Under Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, the child tax credit was dramatically increased, made fully refundable and doled out in advanced regular payouts to families.
It's now worth $3,600 for each child up to age 6 and $3,000 for older children up to age 17. The new benefit only lasts for a year, and some Democrats were pushing hard for the tax credit to be extended permanently as a regular safety net to lift children out of poverty.
Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., had wanted President Biden's American Families Plan to include a permanent extension of the child tax credit. Biden's plan, however, only extends the benefit to 2025. (Office of Rep. Ritchie Torres)
But Biden's proposal extends the tax credit only until 2025. Torres, a big supporter of the expanded child safety net, said allowing the tax credit to expire in four years is a "colossal misjudgment."
"A permanent child tax credit would be to families with children what social security has long been to senior citizens: a critical safety net that affords the most vulnerable among us a fighting chance at a decent and dignified life," Torres told Fox News.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he too wants to expand health care and make the child tax credit permanent. But he viewed Biden's proposal as the first step in a process where Congress will make revisions.
"We need to make the child tax credit permanent," Blumenthal said Wednesday. "We need to add more resources for Medicaid and expand health care. But, this step is one that we should take right now. It's urgent that we provide for the human capital of this country and we can add more."
Fox News' Jason Donner and Megan Henney contributed to this report.