Sen. Joe Manchin told colleagues he believed parents would use child tax credits to buy drugs and people would abuse paid leave to go hunting, report says
- "Joe Manchin told colleagues he believed Americans would abuse benefits in Biden's spending package.
- Manchin said he thought parents would use child tax credit funds to buy drugs, HuffPost reported.
- The West Virginia senator killed any chance of the bill passing in its current form.
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Sen. Joe Manchin privately told his Senate colleagues that he believed Americans would abuse government benefits, like the extended child tax credit and paid leave, in President Joe Biden's sweeping $2 trillion spending package, HuffPost reported.
Specifically, Manchin said parents would use child-tax-credit money to buy drugs and workers would abuse the paid-family-leave program in the legislation to get out of work and go on hunting trips, unnamed people familiar with his remarks told HuffPost.
A person familiar with the situation told Insider Manchin privately expressed concern about grandparents taking care of children whose parents struggle with addiction. He said he worried about the caretakers not being able to qualify for the child-tax-credit money themselves. The West Virginia Democrat advocated for a way to ensure the federal aid flowed to them instead.
On Monday, he publicly reiterated his worry about grandparents being unable to access the payments on "Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval," a West Virginia radio program.
"We have children that are now living with grandparents, and really to the assistance that we give to the welfare system, don't you think we can basically target that child?" he said. "Make sure the money follows the child so if a grandparent's raising the child, they're getting the money and not the parent — even though they're biological parents who are not capable or not having the desire to raise that child."
It's not clear how the bill could be altered to flow child tax credits away from parents who may be substance abusers. To claim a child as a dependent for tax purposes, a US citizen must have custody of the child as a parent or guardian or be a qualifying relative who is raising the child in their home. The child must also receive little to no income a year and cannot be claimed as a dependent by anyone else.
The US Senate left town early Saturday morning without voting on the nearly $2 trillion spending package, known as the Build Back Better agenda, after unsuccessful negotiations between the White House and Manchin over the bill. And the West Virginia Democrat, a key swing vote in a Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, killed any chance of the legislation passing the US Senate in its current form on Sunday.
"If I can't go home and explain it to the people of West Virginia, I can't vote for it," Manchin told Fox News in a Sunday interview. "I've tried everything humanly possible. I can't get there. This is a no."
In a subsequent statement, Manchin said he was concerned about the bill adding to the national debt, worsening inflation, and reducing the US's reliance on fossil fuels and coal "faster than technology or the markets allow."
"My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face," Manchin said. "I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores and utility bills with no end in sight."
The version of the sweeping legislation passed by the US House included an extension of the child tax credit, four weeks of paid family leave, and universal prekindergarten. The bill also focused on healthcare measures, including drug-pricing reforms, support for the Affordable Care Act, and additional coverage of hearing benefits in Medicare. And it allocated hundreds of billions of dollars toward measures to combat the climate emergency.
The US is the only developed nation and one of a few countries worldwide with no national program for paid family and medical leave. Manchin has previously sought to add work requirements to the child tax credit and expressed opposition to passing paid leave. Specifically, he said he was worried that the bill wouldn't fully pay for a paid-leave program and pushed for it to be funded with a new payroll tax on workers and employers.
The notion that low-income Americans wouldn't be responsible with money from government benefits has spurred numerous, mostly Republican-controlled, states to require drug testing for recipients of food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits and impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.
Other Democratic senators were "shocked" by Manchin's comments and saw them as an "unfair assault" on those living in poverty, HuffPost reported.
"Senator Manchin has made clear he supports the child tax credit and believes the money should be targeted to those who need it most," Sam Runyon, a spokesperson for Manchin, told Insider. "He has also expressed support for a paid leave program that has a dedicated, sustainable funding mechanism."
The Senate enacted the current beefed-up child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan, which Democrats passed along party lines in March. The measure increased the maximum amount parents could receive from $2,000 a year to $3,600, depending on the age of the child, regardless of whether the parents earned enough to file tax returns. Over 36 million households have taken advantage of the tax credit since payments started going out in July.
The expanded child tax credit in the Build Back Better agenda would have allowed parents who earn below a certain income to receive monthly payments of $300 per child under 6 and $250 for children between 6 and 18 for another year. Without congressional action, the expanded child tax credit will expire at the end of 2021.
As HuffPost noted, there is little evidence that the enhanced benefits are being used to purchase drugs. A US Census Pulse survey from October found that 58% of recipients said they used the money for food, 33% said they used the funds for utilities, and 30% said they put the money toward school transportation and buying clothes.
Researchers found that the expanded child tax credit had already significantly reduced both child poverty and child hunger and had the potential to lift even more children out of poverty if extended."