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Exclusive: Three bright spots for Democrats ahead of the 2022 midterms – TalkOfNews.com

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Three bright spots for Democrats ahead of the 2022 midterms

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The conventional wisdom was that 2022 was going to be a no good, very bad year for Democrats. There’s an unpopular incumbent Democratic president whose approval ratings have tanked. The US economy is potentially teetering on the edge of a recession. And Republicans are already planning what they’ll do if they retake control of the House, as has been widely predicted.

But even before Democrats unveiled a major new legislative push, bright spots were emerging that hint the midterms might not be as bad for Democrats as expected.

For one, Democrats are outpacing President Joe Biden’s abysmal approval ratings in generic ballots: Slightly more than 43 percent of voters say that, if the election were held today, they would support Democrats in Congress, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average. Just over 44 percent said they would support Republicans.

Even influential Republican polls — including Americans for Prosperity, Echelon Insights, Chamber of Commerce, and Winning The Issues — recently found that Democrats were leading by between 3 and percentage 6 points. Democrats are also now favored to maintain control of the Senate, according to Decision Desk HQ.

“It was not clear from data that there was ever a [Republican] wave,” said Simon Rosenberg, a former senior adviser to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and president of the progressive think tank NDN. “The data that we have today suggests that the Senate is going to stay Democratic, and that the House is competitive. I’m very bullish on this election.”

Democrats have a fundraising advantage heading into the fall in key Senate races, including in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Georgia, and Ohio. They’re also outpacing the GOP among small-dollar donors: through their platform ActBlue, Democrats amassed $64 million in small donations in June, compared to Republicans’ $26.6 million through their platform, WinRed.

There are individual races that are much closer than expected, including the Texas governor’s race and the Utah Senate race, where Republican incumbents are facing surprisingly tough reelection campaigns. And prospects for some Republican pickups are looking less likely now that the GOP has nominated far-right candidates.

Democrats thought they’d enter the midterms empty-handed after multiple failed attempts at passing Biden’s legislative agenda. But on Wednesday, the president and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who had held up previous iterations of the bill, struck a deal on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which addresses everything from prescription drug costs to corporate taxes to the climate. It’s not yet law, but if the party is able to pass the package, they’d have a historic victory to campaign on in the fall.

“I think there’s a lot of hope for Democrats,” said Tom Perriello, the executive director of Open Society-US and a former Democratic congressman from Virginia. “Democrats, in many ways, have been able to increasingly own the role of the party of sanity and have a bigger tent.”

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The GOP has nominated extreme candidates without broad appeal

The president’s party almost always loses significant ground in midterm elections, but 2022 may not follow that pattern. In part, that may be because Democrats aren’t running against a “normal Republican Party,” but rather a party that “ran towards a politics that the country had rejected overwhelmingly twice,” Rosenberg said.

“I think that what you’re seeing in current polling is that there’s a MAGA hangover,” he said. “There is an anti-MAGA majority in this country.”

In several states, Republican candidates won their primaries by catering to the hardcore partisans that typically vote in primary elections. But these candidates could prove too extreme to be electable in key battleground races, including in Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland, where they’ll need to win over disaffected independents who voted for Biden.

Football star Herschel Walker cruised to the Republican nomination to challenge Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, arguably the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate. Recent GOP triumphs in Georgia’s statewide races, like Gov. Brian Kemp’s win over a Trump-backed challenger in his primary, suggest embracing alt-right ideology isn’t the best recipe for success. But that’s what Walker’s done: He’s claimed that Covid-19 was “created by China,” as was the pollution in America’s air, and opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest or where the pregnant person’s life is at risk. In July, Warnock expanded his lead to just over three percentage points, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average.

Illinois state Sen. Darren Bailey, who is running for governor, faces an uphill battle against incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his $132 million war chest, in a state that went for Biden by 17 percentage points. More traditional Republicans like former Gov. Bruce Rauner have been able to eke out wins in statewide Illinois races in recent years, but candidates like Bailey haven’t been successful. He has pushed to evict Chicago from the state and taken aggressive pro-gun and anti-abortion rights stances, urging people to “move on” only about two hours after the shooting in Highland Park earlier this month where seven people were killed. Pritzker is leading Bailey by at least seven percentage points in two polls conducted over the last two months by Victory Research and Fabrizio, Lee & Associates.

Similarly, Maryland state Delegate Dan Cox — who has associated with QAnon conspiracy theorists and helped bus people to the Trump rally that preceded the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 — won the Republican nomination for governor to replace incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is term-limited. But he has little chance of winning over the Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who previously voted for traditionally Republican, anti-MAGA Hogan in a state that President Joe Biden won by more than 30 percentage points in 2020 and where there are more registered Democrats than Republicans.

All that’s not to say far-right candidates are handing Democrats easy wins everywhere. Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Doug Mastriano — a fervent supporter of Trump’s 2020 election lies who compared gun control to policies under Nazi Germany and shared an image saying Roe v. Wade was worse than the Holocaust — has become less of a long-shot candidate than Democrats once thought, trailing his Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, by no more than 4 percentage points across three separate polls conducted in June.

But even the relative success of candidates like Mastriano may be useful to Democrats. They are clear examples of what is to many Democrats and independents a frightening prospect: a return to Trumpism.

“If Democrats were focused backwards on trying to re-litigate Trump, that wouldn’t be a winning strategy, but the prospect of a return to that chaos and divisiveness is a very real and present threat,” Perriello said.

GOP incumbents are haunted by their records

Even some Republican incumbents in red states don’t appear to be immune to a Democratic upswing.

In Utah, a state that has elected Republicans for decades, incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Lee’s fealty to Trump is proving problematic. Unlike his colleague Sen. Mitt Romney, one of only a few outspoken Trump critics in the GOP caucus, Lee zealously supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, encouraging him to “exhaust every legal and constitutional remedy at your disposal to restore Americans’ faith in our elections.”

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His opponent, independent Evan McMullin, is trying to provide an alternative to Utah Republicans who are fed up with Trump and has been endorsed by the Utah Democratic Party, though would not caucus with either party if elected. McMullin increasingly appears within striking distance, now trailing by five percentage points, compared to six points in June, according to polls from the Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics.

The Texas governor’s race is also the closest it’s been since the 1990s. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking a third term, has recently seen his poll numbers drop, fueling speculation that perennial Democratic promises of turning the state blue might actually come to fruition this time. His lead over his opponent, former Democratic congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, has narrowed to just six percentage points, according to a June poll conducted by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. O’Rourke is also outpacing him in fundraising, bringing in $27.6 million compared to Abbott’s $24.9 million in the last filing, though Abbott still has more money on hand.

O’Rourke’s rise has coincided with the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe and the May school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Abbott has been a proponent of Texas’s “trigger law” banning almost all abortions, which is set to go into effect in August, and his response to Uvalde has come under scrutiny since it came to light that his initial account of what happened wasn’t true and obscured costly mistakes made by law enforcement.

Democrats are deflecting Republican attacks and energized by policy

The fact that incumbents like Abbott and Lee, who were broadly seen as immune from challenges, are facing credible opponents suggests that the GOP’s line of attack on Democrats might not be as effective as they had hoped.

While Republicans have been hoping to tie their opponents to Biden’s sinking approval ratings, Democrats have been actively trying to decouple themselves from the president.

O’Rourke, for instance, appears to have turned down Biden coming to Texas to campaign on his behalf; rather than rely on the president, he has relentlessly attacked Abbott, repeatedly accusing him of doing nothing to prevent another mass shooting, failing to fix the state’s electrical grid following a deadly outage during a 2021 winter storm and being the “single greatest driver of inflation in the state of Texas.” And given the disparity in how Democrats are performing on the generic ballot versus Biden’s approval ratings, strategies like O’Rourke’s appear as if they’re relatively successful.

Republicans also haven’t made a coherent case against Biden’s record, Rosenberg argued.

“Republican energy is divided amongst itself,” he said. “It’s focused on conspiracy theories and critical race theory. It’s not focused on the Biden agenda. And it’s certainly not focused on anything that helps struggling American families.”

The GOP has consistently tried to blame Democrats for inflation and rising cost of living, but those arguments may be less salient come November. Gas prices have already come down significantly since their peak in June at $5.01 per gallon, and inflationary pressures are expected to ease in the coming months. Democrats also have a new weapon to fight claims they don’t care about families’ finances, the pointedly named Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which Manchin argues will “get our economic and financial house in order.”

That bill would enact many Democratic priorities, though it’s currently uncertain whether the bill will succeed. The Senate parliamentarian needs to give her stamp of approval so that Democrats can pass it with a simple majority through the reconciliation process. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), a key moderate, has yet to offer her support for the bill, and Democrats can’t afford even a single defection in order to pass the bill in a 50-50 Senate.

But if it does pass, it would likely be a “big boost” to Democrats, Rosenberg said. It would allow Democrats, especially vulnerable members of the House, to tout a major and recent legislative achievement that moves forward issues prioritized by their base.

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“It’s going to make the Democratic closing argument stronger, and it’s going to boost morale and bring the party together at a critical moment,” he said. “I think it’s going to give Democrats a lift. Even if it’s a point or two, that could be the difference between us keeping the House or not.”


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Exclusive: Fed to Weigh Higher Rates Next Year – TalkOfNews.com

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FDA Authorizes Updated Covid Booster Shots

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Wall Street Journal: “A smaller 0.5-point increase would mark a new phase of policy tightening as they calibrate how much higher to lift rates. Policy makers expect price pressures to ease meaningfully next year, but brisk wage growth or higher inflation in labor-intensive service sectors of the economy could lead more of them to support raising their benchmark rate next year above the 5% currently anticipated by investors.”

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Exclusive: Rachel Maddow Raises An Interesting Question About Anti-LGBTQ Extremists And Infrastructure Sabotage – TalkOfNews.com

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Rachel Maddow talks about the power grid attack in Moore, County, NC.

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Rachel Maddow pointed out that the same weekend that white nationalist groups were protesting against LGBTQ events someone shot up a power station in the county where one of the events was taking place.

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Maddow said:

So when Moore County, North Carolina, was host this Saturday to another one of these far right anti-gay, anti-trans protests and then just as a local drag show that they were protesting started up, someone shot up the power stations and cut power to the whole county.

Yes, understandably people locally immediately started asking the sheriff if that was the reason why, if there was a connection. Now, the sheriff has said repeatedly that he has no idea if the attack on the power stations is linked to those anti-gay, anti-trans protests. There really is no indication either way. The sheriff says he has no idea about a motive of any kind. No suspects, nobody claiming any responsibility, no one in custody.

Someone has committed at best an act of sabotage against the power supply. At worst, it was an act of domestic terror.

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It is not a coincidence that on the same weekend that anti-government extremists and neo-nazis show up to protest in a North Carolina county, the power grid gets shot up.

Rachel Maddow didn’t say that it was the extremists who shot up the power grid because there is no evidence to suggest either way, but the power grid wasn’t shot up before the right-wing extremists showed up, and then it was.

Right-wing threats did not stop after 1/6. In fact, the situation has gotten worse, and at a time when there is a lot going on, this problem is worth monitoring.


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Exclusive: Inside the fight for an end-of-year deal on the child tax credit – TalkOfNews.com

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Inside the fight for an end-of-year deal on the child tax credit

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In 2021, an expansion of the child tax credit delivered hundreds of dollars monthly to some 35 million parents across the United States, helping them afford gas, food, and school expenses, and lifting almost 3 million children out of poverty. But last December, Democrats narrowly failed to approve an extension of the expanded credit, and it expired.

Now, with only a few weeks remaining before a new Congress takes office, advocates for the child tax credit are trying again to get an expansion included in any end-of-year tax package.

It’s a tall order, especially because Democrats would need at least 10 Senate Republicans to agree to pass any broad deal; last year, even a simple Democratic majority proved out of reach. But Democrats believe the political dynamics have since changed in their favor, and so have their policy demands, making a compromise potentially easier for Republican moderates to stomach.

The sticking point since the expanded credit expired has been Republicans and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s resistance to the idea that a more generous child tax credit should go to families where no parents are working. 2021 marked the only time in its quarter-century history that the CTC had no parental work requirement, and it was that feature, experts agree, that drove the policy’s substantial reduction in child poverty: a stunning 46 percent drop in one year, according to US Census data. Until the Inflation Reduction Act passed in August, Democrats and their allies were unwilling to entertain any child tax credit expansion that maintained a connection to work.

Now, though, Democrats are signaling they’d embrace a more modest expansion — ideally one that keeps the credit fully available for all families, but at least makes it easier for parents with little to no earnings to access, even if at a reduced rate. Whether lawmakers can increase the amount of funding available for parents of infants and toddlers, as opposed to all kids under 18, is another option on the table.

The biggest negotiating card Democrats have right now is certain expiring business tax breaks. Since 1974, companies have been allowed to deduct research and development (R&D) spending the same year they make the investments, but as a budget gimmick included in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, businesses, as of 2022, now must expense those costs over five or 15 years instead. Restoring the right to annually deduct R&D spending is a top legislative priority of the business community.

Advocates are hoping to pair any restoration of R&D tax breaks with an extension of the child tax credit. In November, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who chairs the Senate finance committee, declared his intent to push for both together while Democrats still control both chambers of Congress.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, chair of the Senate banking committee, has stated that expanding the CTC is his top priority. “I’ll put it this way, no more tax breaks for big corporations and the wealthy unless the child tax credit’s with it. I’ll lay down in front of a bulldozer on that one,” he said in September.

Additional aid for Ukraine, public health, and disaster relief are the Biden administration’s top priorities for any end-of-year deal, but in late November, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said that if corporate tax breaks are included in a final deal, tax cuts “for working families” should be as well.

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The negotiations ultimately may turn on just how much corporate lobbying pressure Republican lawmakers face. Prior to the midterms, Republicans anticipated much bigger electoral gains, making compromise with Democrats ahead of the new Congress seem less urgent. But now, with Democrats set to retain Senate control and Republican House margins tighter than expected, the expectation that Republicans would even be able to reach a deal on the business tax breaks next year if they wanted to looks dicey.

This reality, in fact, partly explains why Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced last week that he’d like to negotiate an omnibus tax package in December, rather than a temporary spending deal that prevents a government shutdown but kicks the can on serious legislative decisions. Pushing the tax negotiations to 2023 would mean incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, rather than current Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would be tasked with getting an acceptable deal through his chamber. “Nobody trusts McCarthy to pass anything (not even McCarthy),” quipped Politico in late November.

Though some advocates are still publicly calling for the expanded CTC of 2021, most acknowledge they’d accept more modest improvements

The 2021 expansion of the child tax credit, passed as part of President Joe Biden’s pandemic relief program, sent thousands of dollars to parents across the US. It made non-working and poor families fully eligible for the credit’s full value and increased the value of the subsidy itself — up to $3,600 per child.

Democrats had been optimistic that if they could just seed the generous program through the American Rescue Plan, then they would amass the kind of political support that makes a popular subsidy hard to repeal. But they failed, and the CTC is resultantly back to its pre-Covid form, with a maximum of $2,000 per child for working families only — and will remain there unless lawmakers change it.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and Republicans believe it’s important for the child tax credit to maintain a connection to working parents.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

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At the heart of ongoing debates over the CTC are unsettled questions about what the policy is for. Is it to reduce childhood poverty? Is it to incentivize parents to work? Is it to help all kids?

Some Democratic lawmakers and CTC activists have been publicly calling for a reinstatement of the 2021 child tax credit, pointing to the research showing it helped families, reduced child poverty, and did not deter parents from working.

In late October, dozens of centrist Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to House leadership calling for an extension of the CTC passed under the American Rescue Plan. Theirs was followed by a similar letter, making the same ask, signed by dozens of progressive Democratic lawmakers. Another letter in November signed by over 550 hunger groups likewise called on congressional leadership to reinstate the child tax credit from 2021.

Adam Ruben, the director of Economic Security Project Action, a group organizing for the CTC, told me that advocates both in Congress and outside Capitol Hill are “crystal clear and aligned” in calling for the child tax credit that passed the House as part of their Build Back Better package, which mirrored the American Rescue Plan version. “That’s the version that’s most effective at reducing poverty, most effective at helping families with the high cost of gas and groceries,” he said.

Yet privately, most child tax credit champions admit they’d accept something less generous than the American Rescue Plan version, and in lobbying meetings they aren’t pressing lawmakers to hold the line, as they did during the reconciliation process. Even some lawmakers and advocates are saying this now publicly.

One option to expand the credit is to focus on the 19 million children under age 17 who currently receive less than the full $2,000, either because their parents earn too little to qualify or because they aren’t working at all. (These children are disproportionately Black, Latino, American Indian, or Alaska Native.)

Expanding the credit for those 19 million children — or, as policymakers say, making the credit “fully refundable” — would cost about $12 billion per year. But it’s not really the cost, advocates acknowledge, that’s the barrier to doing that. It’s that Manchin and Republicans believe it’s important for the credit to maintain some connection to working parents.

As a compromise, Democratic aides say they’re hoping they could make the credit at least fully refundable for parents of young children, or lower the amount parents need to earn to qualify for the credit’s full value.

“I have always believed that in the end this would be bipartisan, that it wouldn’t be just the way I had designed it, that the Republicans would make some changes to it,” Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet said recently on a Politico podcast.

Elyssa Schmier, a lobbyist with MomsRising, told me that while their long-term goal is to see a permanent extension of the child tax credit passed under the American Rescue Plan, what they’re hoping to see in a lame-duck deal “is first and foremost the inclusion of the child tax credit” and in a form that helps it reach as many families in need as possible. Schmier said their focus is not on increasing the value of the credit right now, but expanding it for low-income families currently barred by work requirements.

Rev. Jim Wallis, another child tax credit advocate who leads the Georgetown University Center on Faith and Justice, said he’s not expecting lawmakers to approve a permanent end to all work requirements in December, and said advocates are pushing for some kind of “expansion” targeted specifically to the poorest and most vulnerable families.

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Most liberal activists right now agree with Schmier and Wallis that focusing on the credit’s anti-poverty potential is the most important piece. Other coalition letters have been careful to exclude mention of the 2021 child tax credit, so as to not imply they’re demanding the same policy they were calling for earlier this year. One congressional letter sent by five national civil rights organizations simply called to “expand the CTC,” as did another sent by a coalition of Christian churches and ministries.

The money elephant in the room

One reason many Democrats are trying to minimize discussion of the 2021 expanded child tax credit now is because it — and the version Democrats passed in their subsequent House Build Back Better package — is very expensive, with a price tag exceeding more than $100 billion per year.

In comparison, the corporate tax breaks with which advocates are hoping to pair a child tax credit expansion come at a lower cost. Estimates vary, but the ballpark figure floating around the Senate is somewhere between $45 billion and $60 billion per year. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has estimated that a permanent R&D fix would cost roughly $155 billion over the next 10 years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted that any end-of-year tax deal must prioritize defense spending over domestic policies like the child tax credit.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

“I love the CTC, but I think advocates have done a terrible job of acting like it costs peanuts,” said one Democratic aide working on the negotiations. “It gets you nowhere to pretend we can do this massive transformational thing for nothing. Like expectations here have just been so out of whack because none of the advocates would admit this massive expansion of child benefits costs a lot of money.”

Rather than focus on comparing dollar amounts between the child tax credit and the business tax breaks, CTC advocates have stressed lawmakers should focus instead on parity of time for benefits. In other words, if Congress extends R&D tax breaks for another two years, then they should extend the child tax credit in some form for two years, too. A spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce declined to comment.

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For now, Democratic aides say they’re waiting to hear more details from Senate leadership over how much money is on the table to work with at all. McConnell has previously insisted that any end-of-year tax deal must prioritize defense spending over domestic policies, given that Democrats have already passed major domestic policy bills this year, though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he intends to fight this.

One crucial factor, according to Senate aides, will be if Republicans feel like they’re getting a fair trade — something that can be measured in terms of dollar amount, length of time, or even, frankly, just “vibes.” When House lawmakers first sent their letters in late October and early November calling for a reinstatement of the 2021 expanded CTC in exchange for business tax breaks, some Republican staffers felt Democrats were not making a serious offer, given that many Democrats also want the R&D credits extended. In other words, since Democrats weren’t coming out of the gate with any proposed cuts to their own priorities, it didn’t seem like a great deal to Republicans, or even a realistic threat.

Democratic aides I spoke with said the threat to vote against R&D tax breaks if not paired with the child tax credit is no bluff, and pointed to the fact that Democrats have stood resolved against approving the business tax breaks to this point despite intense lobbying pressure. “If the number of Democrats willing to support the Young-Hassan bill were compelling then this would have been passed by now,” one aide said, referring to a bill Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) have tried to include in multiple legislative vehicles this past year.

Sam Hammond, the director of social policy at the Niskanen Center, a centrist think tank, thinks the chances of reaching a deal on the child tax credit this month are relatively slim, though he believes the results of the midterms increased its odds. “Even though Democrats lost the House, just having control of the Senate floor is, like, nine-tenths of the battle over what can be put on the floor and up for a vote,” he said. “I think if Republicans had swept, there wouldn’t be a tax package being discussed at all.”

Where are Republicans on this?

Conservatives opposed to expanding the child tax credit are sensing that a legislative deal might not be far-fetched, and have started to ramp up their opposition.

The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed and an editorial against the CTC in late November, perhaps the clearest indication they recognize it’s time to fight. “The tax credit is a parable about good intentions, unintended consequences, and the insatiable entitlement state,” the Journal argued, citing new studies that estimate a permanent extension of the American Rescue Plan child tax credit would reduce economic output by 0.2 percent over a decade, and lead to 1.5 million people leaving the workforce.

In June, Republican Sens. Mitt Romney (UT), Richard Burr (NC), and Steve Daines (MT) introduced a new bill — the Family Security Act 2.0 — to distribute monthly cash payments to parents. The proposal is a modified version of a child allowance policy Romney introduced in 2021, though his new bill includes a requirement that families earn at least $10,000 to receive its full benefit.

The Republican proposal would mark a big expansion from the current child tax credit. It would increase the maximum value from $2,000 to $4,200 for each child under age 6 and $3,000 for each child ages 6 through 17, paid out in monthly installments.

Romney’s office declined to comment for this story, but the Utah senator told Semafor “it’s probably not going to be until next year that we consider new legislation” on the CTC.

Most other Republicans, though, are being more tight-lipped, and Ruben, of the Economic Security Project, says his conversations with Republicans suggest they’re keeping their negotiating options open for now.

“We’re talking to Republican offices that say they want to do more for families than current law provides, and when we say, ‘What’s your bottom line in terms of what you can or can’t accept?’ they say, ‘Well, I don’t know, it’s a deal,’” Ruben said. “They don’t say, ‘It has to absolutely do this,’ or has to be written in a certain way. It’s all more fluid in Congress right now than that.”

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