Biden pushes childcare investing in stalled spending bill

President says lack of investment will cause US to fall behind rival countries

US President Joe Biden is welcomed by children at the Capitol Child Development Centre in Hartford, Connecticut. Reuters
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President Joe Biden pressed that investments in childcare and other social safety net programmes are imperative to keep the US competitive in the global economy during a visit to a daycare centre in Hartford, Connecticut on Friday, as part of his continued push for his stalled social spending bill.

Mr Biden reiterated details of his proposal, which would make care free for lower-income families, and ensure that families making up to 150 per cent of their state's median income would pay less than 7 per cent of their salaries on childcare.

The proposal is part of a massive expansion of the social safety net that Mr Biden has championed and is aiming to pass with just Democratic votes in Congress.

“Too many folks in Washington still don’t realise it isn’t enough just to invest in our physical infrastructure. We also have to invest in our people,” he said.

Mr Biden went on to outline how his plan would reduce childcare costs for Connecticut residents, and noted the disparity between US spending on early childcare versus the greater investments made in other countries, making the argument that the lack of investment is causing the US to fall behind.

“How can we compete in the world if millions of American parents, especially moms, can't be part of the workforce because they can't afford the cost of childcare or eldercare?”

He briefly greeted some of the children at the centre's playground before speaking, and at one point kneeling down to give a child a hug.

The president's sales pitch comes as his Democratic allies have raised alarm that the American public does not understand the benefits of the package.

There is renewed urgency among Democrats to push through the package ahead of an end-of-month deadline on transportation funding, Biden's upcoming foreign trip and a closer-than-anticipated race for Virginia's next governor.

Talks between the White House and members of US Congress continue, as they try to reach consensus both on the total spending level for the legislation and what particular programs should be included. Objections by centrist Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are forcing Democrats to shrink the package from Mr Biden's proposed $3.5 trillion to closer to $2 trillion.

The fate of that legislation is also holding up a more than $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the US Senate this summer.

House progressives are balking at supporting that bill until agreement is reached on a path forward on the social safety net package.

Updated: October 15, 2021, 7:26 PM