In a private meeting with Mr. Biden and nearly a dozen House Democrats in swing-districts on Tuesday, the prospect of limiting who could benefit from a promised two years of free community college came up as part of a broader discussion about the program, according to Representative Susan Wild, Democrat of Pennsylvania.
But, she added, “the general sentiment was, we should not be putting means-testing in on universal child care, or let’s call it universal preschool.”
“It’s completely out of the child’s control, obviously, and, it’s an unfair impediment,” she said.
The politics of the debate are murky. Republicans relish attacking Democrats for showering benefits on the rich. They caricature tax credits meant to transition the nation to electric vehicles as subsidies for Tesla owners and mock federally paid family and medical leave by singling out executives who already receive the benefit from their companies. The children of millionaires, they warn, will be among those going to community college for free.
“The Democrat party has become the party of the wealthy and affluent,” Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, wrote in an essay for The Washington Examiner published on Tuesday.
Many of the charges are exaggerated. Millionaires’ children may not be flocking to community college, free or not. Ms. Sherrill’s amendment lifted the income cap on the child care tax assistance, but the benefit is still set up to limit child care costs to no more than 7 percent of a family’s spending. For truly affluent families, child care is a much smaller percentage than that, so subsidies would still be limited. A million-dollar wealth cap still applies to the program as well.
And as Republicans argue the spending helps the rich, they decry tax increases clearly aimed at the rich.
Still the charges could sting.
“There are programs where I say, if the government is helping out somebody like me, that money is probably coming away from somebody who needs it a lot more,” Mr. Kaine said.