Los Angeles Times

Biden says bill is good for kids

The president touts child-care provisions in urging passage of $3.5-trillion package.

- By Erin B. Logan

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Friday implored Congress to pass his party’s major spending bill, saying it would expand access to child care and make the U.S. more competitiv­e in the global economy.

“Millions of American parents, especially moms, can’t be part of the workforce because they can’t afford the cost of child care,” Biden said Friday in a library at the Capitol Child Developmen­t Center in Hartford, Conn.

The president noted that the issue was personal: After his wife died in a car crash in the 1970s, he struggled to afford child care on his $42,500 Senate salary.

Democrats are proposing to decrease the cost of child care and raise wages of day-care workers in a multitrill­ion-dollar spending package that has sparked a fight between the party’s progressiv­es and moderates over its cost and scope.

Party leaders are seeking to pass the measure — which would fund a long list of social, medical and environmen­tal programs — through a process known as reconcilia­tion. That process requires a simple majority in the evenly split Senate to pass measures directly tied to the budget. If independen­ts join all Democrats, Vice President Kamala Harris can break the tie and send the bill to Biden’s desk.

Two Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have balked at the proposed $3.5-trillion price tag and threatened to withhold votes unless the package is trimmed. In seeking to reduce its cost, Democrats are debating whether to fund a few programs with long life spans or a larger number of initiative­s over a few years. They are also deciding whether to target programs to those most in need or offer them to a broader section of Americans.

Republican­s are unified in their opposition to the package, saying it costs too much.

Biden acknowledg­ed Friday that the package would fall below its original price tag but said he was optimistic it would pass.

“We’ll get less than that,” Biden said. “But we’re going to get it.

“Too many folks in Washington still don’t realize it’s not enough just to invest in our physical infrastruc­ture,” Biden said. “We also have to invest in our people.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said Tuesday that the length of several major programs would have to shrink in order to bring the price tag below $3.5 trillion.

“I’m very disappoint­ed that we’re not going with the original $3.5 trillion, which was very transforma­tive,” Pelosi told reporters.

Pelosi can lose only three votes in the House, where progressiv­es have pushed party leaders for more robust spending on an array of social programs.

Proposals that would reduce the cost of child care and boost the pay of childcare workers are politicall­y popular and among the spending bill’s least controvers­ial provisions.

If the current proposals are adopted, the average

family could save about $15,000 a year on child-care costs.

Through an array of subsidies and by expanding the child tax credit, which is set to lapse at the end of the tax year, most families would not have to spend more than 7% of their income on child care, according to a Treasury report. The average family with at least one child younger than 5 spends about 13% of its income on child care, the report said.

Child-care workers’ wages would also be raised. In 2020, a child-care worker earned on average $12.24 an hour, according to the Treasury report. The national living wage in 2019 for a single adult was $16.54 an hour, according to MIT’s living wage calculator. More than 15% of child-care workers live below the poverty line and half rely on public assistance programs in 41 states, according to the Treasury report.

 ?? PRESIDENT BIDEN Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images ?? is greeted Friday at a child-care center in Hartford, Conn. Democrats’ spending bill could save the average family $15,000 a year on care.
PRESIDENT BIDEN Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images is greeted Friday at a child-care center in Hartford, Conn. Democrats’ spending bill could save the average family $15,000 a year on care.

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