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Biden budget proposal seeks to revive expanded pandemic-era child tax credit

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Biden unveiled a $7.3 trillion budget proposal for 2025 this week that would raise taxes on the wealthy and large corporations while lowering child care costs and investing in the elderly and kids. Now, a lot of this would probably be tough to get past Congress, but it is a preview of Biden's priorities if he were to become president for four more years. Included in those priorities is an expanded Child Tax Credit. Biden's proposal aims to boost that credit back to what it was during the pandemic. To talk about this, we're joined by Democratic Senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet. Good morning.

MICHAEL BENNET: Good morning, Leila. How are you?

FADEL: I'm doing well. Senator, you're a former Denver public school superintendent and a father of three. Why do you think expanding this tax credit, as the president has proposed, is the way to help struggling families?

BENNET: Well, we live in the richest country in the world. And when I was the superintendent of schools in Denver, most of the kids in my school district, just like districts all over the - urban districts all over the country, where kids of color and kids living in poverty - often, their parents work two or three jobs. And no matter how hard they worked, they couldn't lift their kids out of poverty because of the lack of economic mobility that's existed in the United States for the last 50 years. The expanded Child Tax Credit, during the pandemic, because of what President Biden did, cut childhood poverty in America in half. And I think our goal should be to end childhood poverty in this country. The president including this in his budget is - I think is a clarion call for us to do that.

FADEL: Now, how is the proposal different from the Child Tax Credit bill that passed the House but is now stalled in the Senate, mostly because of a minority of right-wing Republicans?

BENNET: It's mostly a bigger - it's a bigger credit. It's a more generous credit. It pays the credit out on a monthly basis, which has been really important to parents, especially to moms who are struggling to pay rent in this economy, struggling to afford food in this economy and for whom the expanded Child Tax Credit relieved enormous stress on their families. I still believe that the current credit that we're having a discussion about is an important step forward because, among other important things, it would increase the number of kids that would be eligible in a family to receive the credit. That would be a big deal for poor families in this country. But it's nowhere near as generous as the credit that President Biden has proposed nor the credit we should be fighting for.

FADEL: But how realistic is Biden's proposal if this other bill that's less generous is already stalled over concerns from these Republicans over spending?

BENNET: I think it's unlikely that it will pass this year, but I think it's very important for the president to campaign on this. I believe that the country thinks - correctly - that 50 years of trickle-down economics has heaped real benefits on the wealthiest people in this country. But families have struggled to pull their kids out of poverty, as I said, and middle-class families have struggled to be able to afford middle-class lives in America. We have to change that. We need an economy that when it grows, it grows for everybody, not just the people at the very top.

But in the meantime, there are important policies that we could put in place, like the expanded Child Tax Credit, that could not only have an effect on poverty, but I believe will increase the possibility that people will stay at those jobs because they'll be able to afford child care, and they'll be able to stay there and continue to earn a salary to benefit their kids and to benefit our country. We can't accept the trickle-down economics that, for 50 years, have defined our economy, and that's what Joe Biden is saying when he's putting this proposal forward.

FADEL: Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, thank you for your time.

BENNET: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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