Senate Republicans, including Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, say the Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar social spending plan would hurt working parents’ ability to find and pay for child care, especially in faith-based settings.
The GOP senators also say President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” proposal will cost more than twice the $1.75 trillion Democrats claim, coming in at just under $5 trillion according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said while the bill proposes $381 billion for child care and universal pre-K programs, the CBO pegs it at $752 billion if they remain in place for 10 years.
“And that’s making an assumption that 34% of eligible young children live in states that won’t participate in the child care piece and 40% of eligible preschoolers live in states that won’t participate in a pre-K plan,” he said Wednesday at a news conference in Washington, D.C.
The “Build Back Better” plan would ensure that middle-class families pay no more than 7% of their income on child care and will help states expand access to high-quality, affordable child care to about 20 million children per year, covering 9 out of 10 families across the country with young children, according to the White House.
The proposal would save more than $5,000 in child care for two parents with one toddler earning $100,000 a year. Access to high-quality child care can increase the likelihood that parents, especially mothers, are employed or enrolled in education and training beyond high school, while also providing lifetime benefits for children, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, the White House says.
But Burr said an analysis of the plan shows middle-class families face an inflationary cost increase of $13,000 a year per child for child care.
The legislation also shrinks the supply of child care providers by “killing off” faith-based providers, small family child care homes and kinship care, he said.
“Is that the right way to get a piece of legislation done which affects, in this case, a pretty darn important thing: our children and raising our kids?” he said. “You might say Republicans don’t care about this. Actually, we do.”
The senator touted his plan to send monthly government checks to families for each child, a proposal he said would be entirely paid for. He said he believes it’s better than the Biden plan, though some might disagree.
“The idea is we care about this issue and are willing to work with Democrats to find common ground that creates something that works,” he said.
Families, localities, and churches—not the federal government—should be in charge of what’s being taught and instilled in our young children. I'm joining my colleagues to discuss why the Democrats' "Build Back Better" child care proposals should give everyone serious pause. https://t.co/dUGtGaroMf— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) December 15, 2021
The bill would put additional costs and requirements on faith-based day care providers, Sen Todd Young, R-Ind., said.
“This would be highly unpopular with Hoosier families and families across this country, and be really expensive, too,” he said.
Senators said mandates in the bill would put faith-based providers in a competitive disadvantage with those that receive federal subsidies, forcing some to close their doors.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said more than half of all American families who use institutional child care place their children in faith-based centers.
Biden ran to tackle a bunch of problems in the country, but religious day care wasn’t one that Americans identified, he said.
“Just breathtakingly stupid,” Sasse said. “I’ve never once heard a Nebraska family say, ‘The thing I really want is to make sure that religious day care is made bankrupt. Could you please send people to Washington and bankrupt religious day care?’”
Though he didn’t attend the news conference, Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee also condemned the “Build Back Better” plan.
“This behemoth bill will do irreparable damage to our republic,” he said in a tweet.
Criticism of the legislation comes on the heels of Senate Democrats voting late Tuesday to raise the debt limit by $2.5 trillion to avoid default and to tide the government over until after the midterm elections next fall. Lee and Romney joined all 50 Republican senators in voting against it.
“Worst inflation in decades, and Democrats want to borrow 2.5 trillion dollars more. When will it end?” Lee said in a tweet.
Democrats raised the debt ceiling to accommodate their “Destroy America Bill, which they call ‘Build Back Better,’” he said on the Senate floor.
Lee said the bill would grant a form of amnesty to illegal immigrants, further the Green New Deal, overturn state right-to-work laws, increase vaccine mandate fines on private employers, infuse critical race theory into medical care and grow the IRS by 87,000 agents.
“The blank check to remake America was a gift to progressives from those within the Republican Party who decided to grant it,” Lee said. “I regret deeply their decision to do so.”