With child tax credit stance, Manchin clashes with former religious allies

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Washington – As Democrats struggle to revive discussions on the stalled Build Back Better bill, Senator Joe Manchin faces rejection from an array of church groups frustrated with his stance on the Child Tax Credit – including conservative faith-based organizations whose concerns he has championed in the past.

Debate over the Build Back Better Act, a broad social agenda proposal and a central part of President Joe Biden’s national agenda, came to a halt in December when Manchin said he would not vote for the bill.

According to the Washington Post, negotiations collapsed after the West Virginia Democrat presented an alternative proposal to White House officials that maintained elements of the original legislation but omitted an extension of the child tax credit, a provision popular which provides financial assistance to parents with children. .

This week, Manchin told reporters he supported a child tax credit, which advocates say helps prevent child poverty, but only if it includes a work requirement for parents wishing to receive the service.

“I think there should be a job requirement,” Manchin told Business Insider. “I was very, very direct on this.”

The plan would prevent some of the poorest families from accessing the benefit, which was expanded last year under Biden’s stimulus law to allow most families to receive monthly payments of up to $ 300 per child. But the expansion expired last month, and if Manchin’s proposal for a work requirement – which he has been suggesting for months – became the new normal, families who don’t pay federal income taxes owe from a lack of income would not receive the checks.

Manchin, a Catholic Democrat, is now at odds with religious groups such as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a group whose positions he has promoted in the past: when the Bishops’ Conference, the National Association of Evangelicals , The Orthodox Union and other faith groups have raised concerns over a provision in the Build Back Better bill requiring faith-based preschool and child care programs to comply with federal non-discrimination laws , the West Virginia senator has reportedly argued for change.

But when asked about the child tax credit, bishops’ conference spokesman Chieko Noguchi pointed to a September 7 letter from the bishops expressing support for the expansion of benefits. The authors argued: “It is particularly important that the credit remains fully repayable to ensure that the most economically vulnerable children benefit from this family support. “

Noguchi said the conference was “concerned that the job requirements would undermine that goal and put credit out of reach for the most needy children and their families.”

Manchin’s proposal also pitted him against the National Association of Evangelicals. Although the group has not taken a position on the Build Back Better Act as a whole, Galen Carey, the group’s vice president for government relations, has appeared at church events to express support for the project’s provision. Child Tax Credit Act.

Asked this week about the connection between work requirements and the child tax credit, Carey was quick to voice his disapproval.

“We are in favor of making the child tax credit fully accessible to families who need help the most,” he said in a statement. “Work is of crucial importance for human dignity, but having a certain level of earned family income should not be a prerequisite for accessing support for their children. The full reimbursement of the CTC is what makes it such a powerful poverty alleviation tool. “

In a previous statement sent to Religion News Service in December, Carey noted that the advantage has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past and “has been extended by both Republicans and Democrats.”

“Congress should act urgently to expand the child tax credit, whether as part of a larger package or as a separate bill,” the statement said.

Manchin’s representatives did not immediately respond to questions about the religious retreat, but faith groups condemned Manchin’s position for months. The main one: the Poor People’s Campaign, a group of religious activists who often advocate liberal-leaning legislation. Leaders of the Poor’s Campaign have staged large protests denouncing Manchin throughout 2021 for a number of reasons, including opposing his stance on the child tax credit.

While discussing Manchin’s suggestion regarding work requirements at a press conference in September, Reverend Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor Campaign, described the idea as a “regression to the tired poor debate. deserving and undeserving “.

She noted that some Republicans have justified the demands of work in other contexts by invoking a passage from New Testament scriptures, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, which says, “Anyone who does not want to work must not eat. She insisted that the passage, taken in context, “does not blame the poor for moral failures that lead to poverty, nor does it suggest that work demands should be attached to social programs.”

She added, “There is moral criticism, there is constitutional criticism, of the rich benefiting from the work of others, and other ways the rich punish and oppress the poor.


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