With President Joe Biden's sweeping social spending bill already stalled in the Senate, Republican senators moved in for the kill by warning it would drive up the costs of child care.

Senate Democrats previously set a goal of passing the Build Back Better Act before Christmas, but their path to doing so remained unclear, as they have yet to secure a commitment from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat whose support of the bill would be necessary for its passage.


Manchin has voiced opposition to certain aspects of the bill and has expressed concerns the legislation would contribute to rising inflation.

Senate Republicans, who are expected to oppose the bill as a whole, pointed to the child care provision as cause to block the legislation.

Democrats say that under the bill, no family will spend more than 7% of its income on child care funded by subsidies in the legislation, but Republicans say the complex structure of the proposal will drive up costs.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota told reporters at a press conference that the bill would lead to “fewer options and higher costs” for families.

“That’s what you’re going to get with the Democrats’ toddler takeover,” he said, echoing a talking point circulated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said, “This is just a breathtakingly dumb construction of a program.”

“Think of the most bureaucratic, antiseptic, built for secularized bureaucracy in Washington programs you can think of. The BBB comes along and says, ‘Hold my beer. We can do something a lot stupider than that,’” Sasse said.

Faith groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, have objected to the provision, saying it could exclude faith-based child care providers from participating. Religious groups provide child care for an estimated 53% of families, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah pointed to his own proposal for a child allowance plan and said Democrats should work with Republicans on an alternative.

“The heart of the problem is that they haven’t been willing to work on a bipartisan basis, to see if we couldn’t come up with something that would be acceptable to both parties,” Romney said.

The remarks come in contrast to Democrats who have said the legislation would lower the costs of child care. In remarks on both Tuesday and Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House-passed bill would lower these costs for families, alongside home healthcare and other family care needs.


But the path for the Build Back Better Act in the Senate remained unclear on Wednesday, a roadblock noted by the Republicans.

Asked about Manchin’s position on the bill, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said, “God bless him. He has a lot on his shoulders.”