Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell holds a press conference

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) holds a press conference in Washington, D.C. on December 6, 2022. (Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

McConnell Hails 'Strong Outcome' for GOP as Omnibus Excludes Poverty-Cutting Child Tax Credit

"Our child poverty epidemic is a choice made by the so-called pro-life party," said Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell celebrated what he called a win for the GOP as lawmakers on Tuesday unveiled a sprawling government funding package that includes $858 billion in military spending and leaves out a Child Tax Credit expansion that Democrats and progressive advocates demanded.

"This is a strong outcome for Republicans, and much more importantly, it's the outcome that our nation's security needs," McConnell declared in a floor speech, touting the fact that the 4,155-page omnibus contains more money for the military than non-military domestic priorities.

"The bipartisan bill that our colleagues have negotiated equips our Armed Forces with the resources they need while cutting non-defense, non-veterans spending in real dollars," the Republican leader continued.

For weeks, Democrats attempted to negotiate a revival of the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) in some form, emphasizing the policy's success in sharply reducing child poverty and hunger last year. The CTC boost, which made the poorest families eligible for the child tax benefits for the first time, expired at the end of 2021 due to opposition from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

After the boost expired last year, the CTC reverted back to its previous form, which denies benefits to families with extremely low or zero income. The cost of making the CTC available to such vulnerable families would have been roughly $12 billion a year, a fraction of the sum allotted to the military in the omnibus.

Democrats attempted to attract Republican support by expressing their willingness to accept a slate of corporate tax cuts, but the GOP refused to negotiate--and neither the CTC boost nor the corporate tax cuts made it into the final package.

"The Child Tax Credit kept almost 4 million kids out of poverty, reducing the childhood poverty rate by nearly half. Republicans let it expire," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tweeted Monday as it became clear that last-ditch efforts to revive the policy in the omnibus would fail. "Our child poverty epidemic is a choice made by the so-called pro-life party."

Congress must pass the omnibus this week to avert a government shutdown. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the second-ranking Senate Democrat, accused McConnell of cynically exploiting the prospect of a government shutdown to force through a bill more favorable to Republicans.

"He's in a bargaining position he's taking advantage of," Durbin told reporters, lamenting the inflation-adjusted cut to non-military spending.

Senate Republicans and Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona were reportedly in a "celebratory mood" after appropriators reached a deal on the omnibus.

The roughly $1.7 trillion measure proposes $772.5 billion for non-military discretionary programs compared to nearly $860 billion for the military, around half of which will likely wind up in the pockets of private contractors. The bill also includes $45 billion in military, economic, and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

Politico reported that Democrats "are promoting victories like a nearly $22 billion increase for veterans' medical care, $1 billion for Puerto Rico's electric grid, $1 billion to help low-income families heat their homes, and more."

The Washington Postnoted that the massive funding package would also allow "states to permanently extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers for 12 months and barring children from getting kicked off their Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program coverage for a continuous 12 months, even if a family's income fluctuates."

"In a win for Republicans," the Post added, "the package allows states to start reevaluating who is still eligible for the program beginning in April"--a provision that could strip health coverage from millions.

This story has been corrected to reflect that Sinema is now formally registered as an Independent.

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