Congress is on the verge of passing a tax cut bill that, once again, will leave millions of children behind. Conservative leaders will soon schedule a vote on a five-year extension of tax cuts touted to help middle class families, but which, according to the Joint Economic Committee, fails 9.2 million children.

Extending expiring middle class tax cuts is necessary. But the package facing Congress is wrong on two scores. First, it fails the 4.3 million hard-working families who will see the value of their child tax credit significantly diminished. Second, it adds — without offset — another $135 billion to already record deficits which inevitably will drive draconian spending cuts hurting especially low and moderate income families.

Congress is making the same mistake it has made before on the child tax credit. When other 2001 tax cuts were accelerated last year, a scheduled expansion of an aspect of the child credit that benefits lower-income families was not similarly accelerated. Led by Senators Lincoln, Snowe, Grassley and Baucus, the Senate sought to remedy that wrong. However, the House leadership has consistently blocked efforts to do the right thing.

Now, the leadership is cynically hijacking the bipartisan Senate legislation to force responsible members of both parties to support a flawed extension of the child tax credit and a fiscally irresponsible measure. Members who dare oppose the ploy risk appearing to oppose middle-class tax relief. House leaders are even considering an egregious last minute addition expanding the child tax credit to more high income families, while still leaving many low income children behind.

It's high time for Congress to pass legislation that ensures that the child tax credit is available to the families who need it most, in the context of a more responsible extension of middle class cuts.

John D. Podesta is the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.

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