By Ramsey Cox
The Senate voted 97-1 Thursday to pass a bill that improves child care for low-income working families.
“Every family in America with children is concerned about child care,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), a lead author of the bill, said. “This bill ensures that all children get the care they need and deserve.”
S. 1086, the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization, provides block grants to states to help low-income working parents obtain childcare for more than 1.5 million children under age 13.
The bill had broad bipartisan support and in rare fashion the Senate returned to regular order to add several amendments to an already popular bill.
Sens. Mikulski, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) wrote the legislation.
The bill also aims to improve the quality of 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.
Immediately before final passage, the Senate approved three more amendments by voice-vote.
Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) amendment forces states to prioritize child care funds for low-income children and children with disabilities.
Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) amendment prohibits those convicted of misdemeanors from being a child care worker.
And Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) amendment requires the president to submit a plan to Congress that would substantially reduces childhood poverty in five years.
It’s unclear if Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will take up the legislation in the House, but with so many Republican senators supporting the measure, pressure for him to do so is even higher.