Spotlight Exclusives

Bipartisan Panel Calls for Paid Family Leave, Expanded Child Tax Credit

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill should come together to expand the federal Child Tax Credit and to develop a new, national policy on paid leave.

Those were among the key recommendations released Thursday by the Early Childhood Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a program headed by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and former Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.)

In announcing the recommendations, Miller and Santorum acknowledged that they could not find compromise on some of the more politically contentious elements of early childhood policy. But both men said the fact that they were able to find agreement on key initiatives should send a signal to Congress that caring for young children is too important to be frozen by partisan enmity.

Santorum said he hoped that the example of a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat finding agreement on early childhood issues would remind Capitol Hill that compromise doesn’t begin in the political center – it starts in conversations between each party’s extremes.

“The problem is that the folks at the ends of the parties aren’t talking to each other,” Santorum said. “We stayed away from a lot of the hot button areas and hopefully that will be a help to policymakers trying to find consensus.”

Miller said that the panel’s deliberations had been “a conversation as opposed to a battle and it allows you to have much more depth in the discussion than you would have when you are just slugging it out to see who can get the majority vote.”

“We came to the discussion with a shared concern and tried to figure out, in a town that is not working particularly well, whether we could come up with some things that could provide some kind of light to this area. We didn’t go in there trying to push our ideas on each other,” Santorum said.

The former Pennsylvania senator and two-time presidential candidate said his biggest shift in the deliberations came in his decision to support a new national policy on paid leave. While the panel’s recommendation has no specifics for the policy, Santorum said the ultimate passage of paid leave is hugely dependent on social conservatives such as himself expressing support.

Santorum voted against the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993, but said he had changed his mind on the topic because he has come to believe that the FMLA does not properly serve low-income families. He and Miller noted support for paid leave by Ivanka Trump, but said success on the issue remains a tough slog in Congress.

“I think it’s an issue that, if it’s going to be successful, it has to be embraced by folks like me . . . who are Republican conservatives who are concerned about families and who realize we need to start thinking a little differently,” Santorum said.

Among the recommendations of the report:

  • Increase the value and access to the Child Tax Credit by establishing a young child tax credit of $1,500 per eligible child for all families with children through age five (total credit of $2,500).
  • Begin phasing in the credit on the first dollar earned.
  • Develop and adopt a new, national paid leave policy.
  • Double federal Child Care and Development Block Grant funding for children ages zero to five.
  • Upgrade the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by: doubling the amount of child care expenses eligible from $3,000 to $6,000 for one child (zero to five) and from $6,000 to $12,000 for two or more children; making the credit fully refundable.
  • Reauthorize the existing Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program for at least five years at current federal funding levels.




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