By Ramsey Cox
The Senate cleared several amendments to a child care bill, one of which would require a review of duplicative early childhood education programs.
The Senate is considering S. 1086, the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization and final passage is expected Thursday afternoon after more amendment votes.
The bipartisan bill provides block grants to states to help low-income working parents obtain childcare for more than 1.5 million children under age 13.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 98-0 to adopt Sen. Mike Enzi’s (R-Wyo.) amendment, which requires the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to review all early childhood education programs and report to Congress on wasteful duplication and overlap.
“You have to believe we can have some consolidation there,” Enzi said. “Streamlining programs to eliminate duplication is necessary for good governance. … We can do better with less.”
The Senate also passed an amendment from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on a 93-6 vote. His amendment would lift the current cap on tribal child care funding to ensure Native American tribes receive at least 2 percent of the funding.
And the Senate voted 98-0 for Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-La.) amendment, which would require states to develop a child care plan to take effect when a state of emergency is declared. The Senate passed two of her other amendments by voice-vote that would allow foster families to access the benefits if they qualify.
By voice-vote the Senate also approved an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and later an amendment from Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) that would require states that elect to combine funding for early childhood education and care to describe the manner in which they use the combined funding.
It also passed by voice-vote an amendment from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that would require military child care facilities to also conduct background checks on employees and an amendment from Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), which would clarify language in the bill to clarify that parents have choice in where their children go for care.
The underlying bill also aims to improve the CCDBG program, which hasn’t been reauthorized since 1996. If passed into law, state would now have to conduct background checks on all child care providers receiving the grants and perform at least one annual inspection of licensed CCDBG providers. It also allows states to use some of the federal funds to promote nutritional and physical education for children in the CCDBG program.
Sens. Mikulski, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) wrote the legislation.