President Biden’s proposed social spending bill contains billions of dollars to address child care in the United States, an issue top of mind to Massachusetts families, for whom the cost of care is among the most expensive in the country.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are currently in the process of whittling down Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion social policy bill amid pushback on a number of provisions from West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. With a 50-50 split in the Senate, the support of Manchin and Sinema are necessary to pass the measure through a process known as reconciliation, which requires a simple majority.

The size of the package now stands at about $1.75 trillion, according to the Associated Press. To reach that number, lawmakers are in talks to water down — or cut altogether — a number of provisions that were in the initial bill.

As debate continues on what stays and what goes, the Globe caught up Tuesday with Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, the assistant speaker of the House, to discuss where a number of the proposed child care initiatives stand.

This interview has been condensed.

On where negotiations on child care measures currently stand:

“What I can tell you is that the care economy, including child care, has been long undervalued and underinvested in, and this pandemic brought this fragile system to a breaking point. And what we have been advocating for in my office and with many of my colleagues, is that it is time for a paradigm shift. And the Build Back Better agenda recognizes that child care is as essential to our economic infrastructure as roads and bridges, and that it is a public good. I am confident that child care and universal pre-kindergarten is going to come through this reconciliation package with a robust investment in our kids and family.”

On the child tax credit, which is set to expire in December, and how long it may be extended for amid reports that it would be extended for another year instead of through 2025 as Biden initially proposed:

“We don’t have the final number yet. I would make this program permanent because families are already experiencing the benefits of this transformational tax cut from the American Rescue Plan. Just last week, I met a single dad whose wife had a stroke during childbirth, and he’s raising his toddler daughter on his own, and he said that the child tax credit has made such a difference in his life and the ability to provide for his daughter while working full time. So we know that this works, and we are going to fight for every dollar and extension of time until we can make this child tax credit permanent.”

On Manchin’s proposal to add work requirements and lower income limits to the child tax credit:

“Work requirements undermine the goal of this tax cut. I’m not in favor punishing children when we could be lifting them out of poverty. And the data we have confirms data that we’ve seen from Canada and other countries that have provided a similar tax cut for families. And that is that parents that received the child tax credit are working already, and they are using this funding for food, to pay child care, to pay rent, mortgage, for clothing, the basics that families need to succeed. So I think that this program is an unqualified success and we need to build on that, not take away what is making it so powerful for families and their success.”

On how lawmakers are approaching making cuts:

“I think that anytime you have over half of your funding taken away, there are tough compromises that are going to have to be made. And it is pitting really good programs against really good programs. But those are decisions that we will make with the eye of doing the most good for the most people that we can. These negotiations are close, but they’re not quite over yet, and we’re going to keep pushing to make sure that child care, universal pre-K are priorities that make it through with robust funding, because we know that is the way we truly Build Back Better and more inclusive and don’t leave women out of this economy.”

On what child care policies are priorities to stay in the bill:

“I think that robust funding to make sure that child care is accessible, establishing universal preschool. We are an outlier. Wealthy nations contribute $14,000 a year to help care for a toddler; in the United States, we contribute $500. So we need to make sure that we are funding these programs and also raising the wages of the overwhelmingly women and women of color who provide this critical care. We can no longer afford to say to child care providers that while you are caring for our children, you are not being paid enough to care for your own children. We have to call that out as unfair and unwise. We know that an investment in child care comes back. For every dollar we put in, over $7 comes back, so this is financially sound and the morally right thing to do to expand educational opportunities for kids and to make sure we have the workforce of today and tomorrow as strong as possible.”

On why the United States lags in funding child care compared to other nations:

“I think for too long we have thought of child care as a private decision, an accessory that wasn’t somehow worthy of investment of public dollars. What this pandemic has done has stripped away all those excuses, all those stereotypes, and frankly the discrimination against women and women who provide this care somehow deeming their work as less than and less deserving of a fair and living wage. What this pandemic has shown us starkly is that we will not have a recovery, we will not have an economy that includes women, we will not be able to educate our children so they are have a lifetime of higher earnings, and allow us to be competitive globally without an investment in child care and universal pre-kindergarten.”

Original story HERE