Senate Republicans warn Biden's massive spending plan could 'bankrupt religious day care'

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Senate Republicans Wednesday warned that Democrats’ massive reconciliation spending bill could make it significantly harder for religious child care facilities to operate, as talks among Senate Democrats about the bill appear likely to drag into the new year. 

Several GOP senators, led by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., argued that the reconciliation bill will not only increase child care costs on middle-class families, but that it may significantly harm the ability of faith-based child care providers to operate. 

“I’d be really surprised if the voters and citizens of Nevada or Arizona or West Virginia or New Hampshire said, ‘You know what I want my senator to do? Go to D.C. and bankrupt religious day care,’” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said. 

“Fifty-three percent of the families in this country get their child care through a faith-based center,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., added. “And what this… would do is discriminate entirely against those types of child care centers that provide meaningful care for so many parents.”


Republicans point to two elements of the bill they say will harm religious providers. First, it includes a specific ban on subsidies from being used “for buildings or facilities that are primarily for sectarian instruction or religious worship,” even if the child care provider itself is eligible. 

Second, it changes the funding scheme for early childhood care from one that funds parents, who decide how to spend their money, to one that gives the money directly to the providers. 

“So under current policy, they support the individual who then uses those funds. The new model would be directly to the providers,” Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis., ranking member of the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, told Fox News this week. “By making this tweak, under federal law, it prevents them for paying for the facilities if worship is done.” 

“I just talked with six actual faith-based day cares in our state that have been in operation collectively for at least a hundred years. And one of them said it’s already more difficult to find staff,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said. “This bill would escalate that and make it much more difficult. If non-faith-based care is being subsidized it will lower overhead for non-faith-based institutions and would put them at a … competitive advantage over faith-based.” 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Democrats’ reconciliation bill will cut child care costs for the middle class and increase options – Republicans disagree.
(Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP)

Republicans also say the reconciliation bill would significantly increase child care costs for many middle-class families by imposing strict regulations and salary requirements on child care providers. 

“Because they’re going to increase the cost of child care and restrict who can have access to federal funds and subsidies we will lose many day care providers,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said. “One parent may decide to stay home because they can no longer afford child care. Most oftentimes that’s going to be the mother… What does this do to that woman’s future? The potential earnings decrease, the stability and opportunity to advance in their careers decreases.”

GOP attacks on the bill fly in the face of rhetoric from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats that the child care provisions will help families. 

“The best two words to use, Build Back Better… are it, ‘lowers cost,'” Pelosi said at her Wednesday press conference. “It lowers cost of child care. It lowers cost of health care… It lowers cost in so many ways that are essential to America’s working families.” 

Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark, D-N.Y., said Wednesday Democrats’ policy “will cut costs for parents and save them over $8,000 a year.” She also accused Republicans of being “out of touch… with American families.” 

Sen. Joe Manchin is the key vote for Democrats to pass their massive reconciliation spending bill.
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Pelosi was not asked about the reconciliation bill’s child care provisions at her press conference. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations the reconciliation bill would raise child care costs and decrease access.


The office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the Senate would consider removing these child care rules from the bill before sending it back to the House. And a spokesperson for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. – who has the ability to kill the entire reconciliation bill – did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his GOP colleagues’ concerns about the child care provisions.

“His colleague from West Virginia raised concerns about faith-based organizations,” Burr said, referring to Manchin’s fellow West Virginian, Capito. “And those are the same faith-based organizations Sen. Manchin represents.”

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