Ambitious plans by Democrats at times included universal preschool, reduced child care costs, paid family and sick leave, and enhanced child tax credit, among other provisions, but these ultimately fell through. were eliminated during the negotiations. The cuts become the ninth time in just two and a half years that proposed legislation aimed at helping women and families has been removed, according to a CNN analysis of data from the Congressional Budget Office and congressional research reports.
Only paid family leave has been reduced or eliminated five times since March 2020.
And although universal pre-kindergarten has only been voted down once in the past two years, the idea isn’t new to the United States: The Lanham Act provided nearly universal child care of 130,000 children at its peak during World War II, and universal pre-K-K bills were introduced by Democrats in Congress almost every year from 1999 to 2019 and never moved forward, the analysis showed. .
The frustration of legislators trying to include these provisions is palpable.
“We’re not going to let one man tell every woman in this country that they can’t get paid time off,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said after negotiations with Sen. Joe Manchin ( D-WV). remove the Build Back Better Act provision in 2021.
Despite a January 2022 poll that showed more than half of Americans think universal pre-K and paid family leave would help the country, these provisions continue to face the combined headwinds of a 50-50 Senate and a the economic impact of the Covid pandemic.
See the history of these setbacks:
March 2020: Families First Coronavirus Response Act (CARES Act)
Congress succeeded in including a form of paid family leave in the CARES Act, the first legislative response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But with the Senate narrowly led by Republicans at the time, the GOP’s unwillingness to renew those benefits resulted in paid family leave expiring at the end of 2020.
In the currently evenly divided Senate, the lack of Republicans willing to vote for any bill advancing the Social Democratic agenda means garnering 60 votes to overcome a filibuster has become a nearly impossible task for Democrats. And legislation that can be passed by a simple majority through a process known as budget reconciliation still requires all 50 Democrats in the Senate to agree on a bill.
Ultimately, any bill that includes universal pre-kindergarten, paid family leave and/or an expanded child tax credit must win over moderate Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Spring 2021: American Rescue Plan and American Families Plan
In April 2021, a month after Congress passed a second Covid relief bill that failed to revive paid leave but included an expanded child tax credit, President Joe Biden proposed a bill. bill comprising the three provisions that eventually became known as Build Back Better.
Meaning. Manchin and Sinema opposed the bill’s $3.5 trillion price tag.
Fall 2021: building back better
In October, Democrats scrapped paid family leave and diluted the expanded child tax credit from four years to one to meet Manchin’s $1.5 trillion goal.
Nancy Pelosi added paid vacation in the version of the bill passed by the House in November. But after he went to the Senate, negotiations with Manchin resulted in the elimination of paid vacation and the child tax credit.
In December, the West Virginia senator abruptly pulled out of Build Back Better, which also doomed the universal pre-K.
2022: Inflation Reduction Act
The advancement of these social safety net provisions has also been complicated by the enormous economic and political upheaval since the introduction of the BBB.
During the December 2021 negotiations, Manchin expressed concern about the potential impact of BBB on inflation, which has climbed to rates not seen in 40 years. After the bill collapsed, Sen. and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) continued negotiations for several months on a revised package. What emerged in July was the Cut Inflation Act, which contained provisions tackling climate change and cutting health care costs, but was designed entirely to reduce inflation, although economists won’t disagree on the magnitude of the bill’s impact on inflation.
Although Biden proposed reviving universal pre-K and limiting child care costs as ways to fight inflation during his State of the Union address in March, that benefit — as well as paid family leave and the expanded child tax credit – all missing from the IRA. .
Public attitudes towards these social reforms have changed over the past year.
In a CNN poll from January and February, 8% of respondents said “expanding access to affordable childcare” was the most important issue the government needed to address. In comparison, only 1% answered “coronavirus”.
In a July poll, after five months of soaring prices, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and multiple mass shootings, 38% of Americans cited inflation and less than 1% said the cost of childcare was the biggest economic problem facing families.
According to a 2021 UNICEF report on national child care policies, “the United States is the only wealthy country without nationwide paid maternity leave, paternity leave, or parental leave.”