SALT LAKE CITY — As President Joe Biden prepares to unveil his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan on Wednesday, two Republican senators, including one from Utah, called for "meaningful, bipartisan" relief for working families by building on their proposal to again expand the child tax credit.
Biden is expected to introduce his family plan, including paid family leave, free reduced-price community college, universal pre-K, child care funding and more food assistance, in his first speech before a joint session of Congress. The White House says tax increases on wealthy investors and high-income Americans would fund the plan.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., say Biden's child allowance proposal would be a return to the failed welfare system of the 1990s.
In 2017, the Republican tax relief plan doubled the child tax credit to $2,000 per child, which the senators say greatly helped working families making less than $50,000 a year. Lee and Rubio co-sponsored the measure that expanded the credit.
The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that Biden signed last month increased the tax credit to $3,600 a year for young children and $3,000 a year for older children, but will expire at the end of the year. Biden wants to extend the expanded child tax credit through 2025.
"Now, President Biden is looking to extend this temporary pandemic cash payment for another four years. The dangers at hand are far from new. As then-Senator Biden put it in 1988, the old American welfare system broke down because 'it only parceled out welfare checks and (did) nothing to help the poor find productive jobs," Lee and Rubio said in a joint statement.
"A policy vision intended to help American families going forward cannot be based on yesterday's failures."
The senators say Congress had a chance earlier this year to boost the child tax credit to $3,500 per child, and $4,500 per child under the age of 6, a proposal that drew the support of all Senate Republicans.
"But Democrats chose the alternative: simply handing out cash to parents, including ones already on welfare or in households where nobody is working," they said. "This kind of universal basic income makes more Americans dependent on government and severs the vital elements — work, marriage, community and beyond — required to raise healthy families."
Lee and Rubio said Democrats unraveled the bipartisan welfare reforms previously passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic president.
While the two senators have long said that American families need and deserve some help, they oppose turning the child tax credit into a child allowance, paid to families on a monthly basis. Rather, they argue the credit should remain in the tax code, paid out when taxes are filed.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has proposed giving families what amounts to a child allowance, paid monthly through the Social Security Administration. But neither Lee nor Rubio support a child allowance, in part because they say it hampers efforts to ensure parents work.
They say it's not tax relief, but welfare assistance.