Stimulus Check Update: Bernie Sanders Pushes for Child Tax Credit Extension

Senator Bernie Sanders, a progressive independent from Vermont, pushed for the inclusion of a Child Tax Credit extension in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—and said on Saturday that American families need more urgent relief than the large package would provide.

Democrats in March 2021 passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) through the budget reconciliation process, meaning it could be approved with a party-line vote in the evenly-split Senate. That legislation increased payments for the Child Tax Credit to $3,600 for eligible children under 6, and $3,000 for children between the ages of 6 and 17. Additionally, ARP revamped how Americans received the credit. Instead of receiving one lump sum after filing their taxes, millions of Americans received half their estimated credit in monthly payments of $300 for each child under 6, and $250 for all other eligible children.

The popular Child Tax Credit plan, which many compared to the stimulus checks sent out by the federal government during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, expired at the end of last year. Although Democrats hoped to renew the plan through President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act, that bill faltered. Instead, Democrats now plan to pass the IRA, and Sanders hoped to amend that legislation to include an extension of the Child Tax Credit.

Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, pushed unsuccessfully this weekend for an amendment to the Inflation Reduction Act that would have extended Child Tax Credits of $300 per month. Above, Sanders is seen on June 16 in Washington, D.C. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"I will be introducing an amendment to expand the $300 a month Child Tax Credit for the next 5 years paid for by restoring the top corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent," the Vermont progressive said in remarks from the Senate floor on Saturday.

Early Sunday morning, as senators continued to vote on amendments to the large package, Sanders' effort was roundly defeated. The vote for the amendment to include the Child Tax Credit was shot down 97 to 1—meaning the vast majority of Democrats rejected a plan they once touted for significantly decreasing child poverty.

"In terms of our children, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost every major nation on earth. This bill, as currently written, does nothing to address it," Sanders said of the IRA in his Saturday evening remarks, urging other lawmakers to support his amendment.

Notably, Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, had urged other members of the party to vote "no" on the amendment. Although Bennet has been a key proponent of the the expanded benefit to parents, he argued that adding the provision would kill the IRA.

Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat, has previously opposed expanding the Child Tax Credit without significant modifications. As Democrats need all 50 members of their Senate caucus to vote to approve the final draft of the IRA, even one Democratic senator opposing is enough to kill the bill.

Newsweek reached out to Sanders' press representatives for comment.

Stimulus checks, or direct payments, were a popular policy during the pandemic. At the start of the novel coronavirus lockdowns in March 2020, Congress came together in a bipartisan way to pass a large relief package that included stimulus checks of up to $1,200 for most Americans. Then in December 2020, another bipartisan package passed through Congress with additional $600 checks. In the ARP, which no Republicans supported, Democrats included another round of $1,400 stimulus checks alongside the Child Tax Credit payments.

A Change.org petition calling for stimulus checks of $2,000 per month to be sent out to every American for the duration of the pandemic drew substantial support online. The petition garnered more than 3 million signatures, urging Congress and the White House to act.

Although the federal government currently appears unlikely to send out additional stimulus checks or to expand the Child Tax Credit in the near term, some states have taken their own initiative to provide relief to residents. At least eight different states have plans to send out direct payments to help struggling individuals and families. Payments range from a few hundred dollars in direct relief, to sizable checks for each dependent child and extra tax rebates on top of what families would normally receive.