GOP senator wants to strip child tax credit from nonworking parents

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Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) wants to do away with the expanded child tax credit that has kept nearly 4 million kids out of poverty this year.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) criticized the Democrats' Build Back Better plan on Thursday, unhappy that it would extend a successful child tax credit expansion that has helped keep kids out of poverty.

In an interview with Tulsa news station Fox23, Lankford singled out the program as a key reason he opposes President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion climate change and caregiving infrastructure package.

"There's a child tax credit that already exists right now. They want to be able to long-term put in a child tax credit that's actually for individuals that don't have an income, so there are families not working at all and individuals that are not legally present in the country," Lankford said. "We want to leave the child tax credit as it is for working families, to be able to help families to be able to get up on their feet and to be able to keep going. But there's one entitlement after another in this new package, and we just think that's the wrong direction to go for the country."

The American Rescue Plan, which became law in March over opposition from Lankford and every other congressional Republican, expanded the existing child tax credit for 2021 from up to $2,000 per child under age 17 to up to $3,600 (for children under age 6) and $3,000 (for children ages 6 through 17). It also established a monthly system to directly transfer funds to families rather than make them wait until they file their 2021 tax returns.

The Brookings Institution noted in September that the expansion was designed in reaction to an increase in child poverty in the United States stemming from the coronavirus pandemic's effects on the economy. Investigators at the Washington University in St. Louis Social Policy Institute reported, "Parents overwhelmingly planned to use the credit to save for emergencies and college tuition, apply the money towards housing, food, and utilities, and purchase more or better quality foods, clothing, and other essentials for their children."

The program has been hugely successful at helping the neediest kids. On Wednesday, Columbia University's Center on Poverty and Social Policy reported that the November tax credit payments reached 61.3 million children and kept 3.8 million kids out of poverty.

But the child tax credit expansion is set to expire at the end of this month.

Democrats are hoping to extend it for 2022, as part of the Build Back Better package. The bill passed the House in November, over unanimous GOP opposition, and is now pending in the Senate. Lankford said on Thursday that he would "stay here as long as it takes to fight this thing off."

 

In addition to providing smaller tax credits for even poor families that do have incomes, economists say Lankford's suggestion of reverting back to the old system and limiting it to those with incomes would hurt the kids who need help the most.

In September, Stanford Law School's Jacob Goldin told CNBC that a work requirement for the credit would punish those at the very bottom. "There's just very, very strong evidence that providing extra financial assistance to kids growing up in low-income households yields big benefits in their lives," he added.

Lankford and other opponents of the expanded credits have also demonized immigrant parents who qualify for support, suggesting that even kids who are U.S. citizens deserve no help if their parents are undocumented.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.