New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went after former Vice President Joe Biden’s record on child care during Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate, pointing to his vote against a child care tax credit while serving in the Senate in the 1980s.
Gillibrand noted that Biden was the sole vote against the bill and highlighted an op-ed Biden wrote at the time, claiming that “he believed that women outside the home would create the ‘deterioration’ of family. He also said that women who were working outside the home were avoiding ‘responsibility.’”
But what did Biden actually say?
The 1981 op-ed, published in a local Massachusetts newspaper, was entitled “Congress is Subsidizing Deterioration of Family.” The quote to which Gillibrand was referring said, “A recent act of Congress puts the federal government in the position, through the tax codes, of subsidizing the deterioration of the family. That is tragic.”
What Gillibrand did not explain, however, is that Biden was not opposed to the tax credit outright: he was opposed to the fact that the bill would have made the credit available to anyone—regardless of income.
Later in the op-ed, he writes as much: “what I do not accept as legitimate is social policy that encourages a couple making $30,000 [the equivalent of close to $90,000 today], $40,000, $50,000 or more a year to evade full responsibility for their children by granting them a tax credit for day-care expenses.”
He continues that he does not believe it is “fair to ask a family of marginal income, choosing to provide the primary care for their children, to subsidize an upper income family’s day care.” In his view, such a subsidy would allow those with more means to work more and thereby earn more, allowing them to afford a “larger home, a patio, a swimming pool, or three weeks at the beach.”
“I do not believe the federal government should be party to a system which encourages couples to place their children in day-care centers in order to acquire material possessions that go far beyond any basic necessities,” he writes.
While he ultimately voted against the bill, Biden had tried (and failed) to add an amendment to it that would have eliminated the credit for wealthy couples, leaving an exception for single parents of all incomes.
During the debate on Wednesday, Biden echoed these points, noting that the tax credit “would have given people making today $100,000 a year a tax break for child care. I did not want that.”
Gillibrand doubled down, questioning whether Biden “no longer believes” that “women working outside the home would lead to the deterioration of family” to which Biden replied, “I never believed it.”
HuffPost, which highlighted Biden’s record on the subject in an article published last week, notes that since 1981 Biden has “supported the child credit and other expansions of tax credits for working people,” including getting key Republican support on bills related to child care while working in the Obama administration.
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