Democrats are pouring cold water on Joe Manchin's suggested work requirement for the Biden child tax credit

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Sherrod Brown Bernie Sanders
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown at a news conference on Capitol Hill in 2014. Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Democrats in the House and Senate started lining up against Manchin's idea of tying the child tax credit to work requirements.

  • Among the Democrats critical of the idea were Sens. Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

  • It underscores the details that still need to be ironed out on renewing key anti-poverty program that's a top Biden priority.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Democrats in both the House and Senate on Monday started lining up against Sen. Joe Manchin's suggestion that people should be required to work in order to qualify for President Joe Biden's revamped monthly child tax credit (CTC).

Three Senate Democrats expressed opposition to the West Virginia Democrat's concept of work requirements, including two influential committee chairs. Among them was Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who leads the Senate Banking Committee.

"Senator Brown believes that caregiving IS work, and the families receiving the CTC are working hard every day to provide for their children - some of them at multiple jobs," a Brown spokesperson said in a statement to Insider. "These tax cuts have lifted millions of kids out of poverty. That policy should continue."

That was echoed by a spokesperson for Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado. The person said Bennet backed the House Democratic plan that would renew the monthly payments until 2025 and lock in the ability for families with scarce or no tax obligations to access the credit after that.

"He believes punishing the poorest children in America because their family's income is too low to qualify them for the CTC is self-defeating and incredibly compromising to them and to our nation's future," the spokesperson said in a statement to Insider.

They cited a body of research that shows work requirements end up kicking vulnerable people from economic security programs, depriving them of critical assistance.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont poured cold water on Manchin's idea as well. "My own personal view is that would be counterproductive to the children who need help the most," he told reporters.

The mounting opposition came a day after the West Virginia Democrat floated a work requirement for the program in a CNN interview. It underscores the details that remain to be ironed out among Democrats on one of their key anti-poverty initiatives as they try to mold a $3.5 trillion spending plan into law this month.

On Sunday, Manchin said tying the child allowance to work would ensure federal assistance would flow to "the right people," while maintaining he supports child tax credits.

"There's no work requirements whatsoever. There's no education requirements whatsoever for better skill sets," he told CNN's Dana Bash. "Don't you think, if we're going to help the children, that the people should make some effort?"

A key House progressive slammed Manchin's idea on Monday. "I… I don't think he gets what we're doing here," Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wrote on Twitter. "Children still need to eat - whether their parents are employed or not."

The Democratic stimulus law in March turned the credit into a one-year cash benefit issued in monthly checks to the vast majority of families. Individuals who earn $75,000 or less are eligible for up to either a $250 or $300 direct payment per child depending on their age. Couples earning a combined $150,000 or less also qualify for the total check amount.

Early research indicates the first month of payments in July kept three million children out of poverty and helped feed two million kids.

But Democrats are laboring to produce a sprawling social spending package capable of garnering the support of virtually every member of their party. They're employing the reconciliation process to skirt Republican opposition, and only requires a simple majority.

Democrats are running up against budgetary constraints and they're clashing behind the scenes on which measures to prioritize in healthcare and education. The party's margin of error is slim: Democrats have three votes to spare in the House and none in the Senate for the plan to become law.

Manchin, alongside Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, say they're opposed to the $3.5 trillion price tag, making reductions to the package possible. The House Democratic version of the child tax credit expansion would cost $556 billion over a decade, or one-sixth of the current package.

"I want it to be as robust as possible," Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters. "It's part of a comprehensive set of goals to reduce child poverty."

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