The Lead

Casey ‘encouraged’ by negotiations on child tax credit legislation in Congress

By: - January 17, 2024 8:57 pm

Sen. Bob Casey. (File photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for JDRF)

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said he was “encouraged” by progress in negotiations in Congress over child tax credit legislation, but expressed some uncertainty that a deal could move forward. 

A bipartisan, bicameral tax proposal released Tuesday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) would raise the child tax credit incrementally through 2025 and restore tax relief for affordable housing projects.

“That doesn’t mean it’s done and it doesn’t mean it will pass, but I think the fact is they’ve made good progress,” Casey told the Capital-Star. 

The three-year proposal would also make exempt disaster payments to wildfire victims and to those who suffered losses after the massive train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Casey said the fledgling deal could be a significant advancement for children. 

“We had finally figured out a way to dramatically reduce child poverty, by strengthening the child tax credit,” Casey said. 

The credit, which was part of the American Rescue Plan, raised the amount of money families received —from $2,000 to $3,600 per child under age 6 and to $3,000 for other children-– and paid them in monthly checks. The credit helped reduce the U.S. child poverty rate to a record low, but it expired in 2021. 

Casey said another area where families will benefit is the Biden administration’s plan to lower the cost of prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.

That initiative was part of the Inflation Reduction Act, and has been a key part of President Joe Biden’s reelection pitch to voters. The president regularly touts his administration’s push to cap the cost of insulin for seniors, and to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers.

“It’s unfortunately like a bag of rocks, it’s around everyone’s shoulders all day long,” Casey said of the cost of prescription drugs. “And there’s no reason for it, except drug companies didn’t want to put in place reforms to ratchet down prices, and they wanted to point fingers instead of getting those costs down.”

But the negotiated prices for the other drugs the Biden administration identified will not take effect until 2026, and at least one pharmaceutical company has sued to try to stop the program. 

“I don’t think they’ll be able to stop it from going into effect,” Casey told the Capital-Star. “There’s tremendous public interest in this and by extension, tremendous public pressure.”

And even though the rest of the potentially lower drug costs are still two years away under the current plan, Casey thinks it’s up to Democratic lawmakers to remind voters of what they’ve been working on — especially those like him who are candidates for reelection.  

“You can’t just pass the bill and say, ‘OK everyone should be patient,’” he said. “I do think that when that becomes more clear to folks, I think that that will help enormously not just in terms of their determinations about 2024 but what they can expect to see in ‘25 and ‘26. And that’s a strong predicate for them to expect more changes that are positive after that.”

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly