Published November 19, 2020
President-elect Joe Biden has said he wants to unify the country. From a policy perspective, that means working with Republicans on issues with strong interest from elements of both parties. Expanding the child tax credit and creating a paid family leave program are two opportunities he should pursue.
The child tax credit, which reduces a parent’s income taxes by as much as $2,000 per child under age 17, offers something for both Democrats and Republicans. Up to $1,400 per child is refundable, which means that parents can get some money for each qualifying child even if they have no net income tax liability. Republicans like it because it helps to defray the cost of raising children, making larger families somewhat more affordable. Democrats like it because it helps reduce child poverty and supplements other programs such as the earned-income tax credit, which helps reduce overall poverty. As a result, the Wall Street Journal reports, there is already discussion underway for a potential bipartisan deal to increase the child tax credit amount and the portion that is refundable to taxpayers.
A broader bipartisan coalition could include instituting a program for paid family leave. Republicans such as Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Joni Ernst of Iowa have already introduced bills to create a program that would give parents the ability to take paid time off to care for newborns or sick family members. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to establish such a program using another funding mechanism, while Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) have introduced a plan that creates a more expansive (and expensive) program. While there are important differences among these proposals, the overlap in interest suggests a compromise could be reached.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.