In “Senators owe vulnerable kids real debate, floor votes” by John Kelly and Daniel Heimpel (Dec. 14), they correctly highlight the enormous problem that children face in the legislative process where bills involving children, such as the Family First Prevention Services Act (child welfare) and the Supporting Youth Opportunity and Preventing Delinquency Act (juvenile justice), fail to get votes in the Senate despite overwhelming bipartisan support. To their list, I would add the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act, which also failed to get approved by Congress.

The fact is that children are far too often an afterthought in Congress. This is highlighted by the fact that the federal share of funding dedicated to children’s programs dropped from 8.45 percent in 2010 to just 7.83 percent in 2015, and the share is projected to drop even further over the next decade.


According to the Urban Institute in its Kids’ Share analysis, just two percent of all new spending will be dedicated to children in the next 10 years, unless Congress actually makes a concerted effort to make children a priority.

Kelly and Heimpel are, however, off the mark in criticizing Finance Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line Bottom line MORE (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump MORE (D-Ore.) for failure to pass the “Family First” child welfare bill.

The two senators worked for two long years on the legislation and sought to address concerns raised by members and groups throughout this year. The problem arises when a senator or two decide to place a legislative hold on children’s bills and, far too often, deny the will of the overwhelming majority of senators to improve the lives of children.

In a political era where bipartisan problem solving is in short supply, Sens. Hatch, Wyden, Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes GOP to Trump: Focus on policy MORE (R-Iowa), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-Vt.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate GOP's campaign arm releases first ad targeting Bollier in Kansas The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida National Republicans will spend to defend Kansas Senate seat MORE (R-Kan.), and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowHealthcare, retirement security seen as top issues for older voters, lawmakers say Dems to focus on issues, not character, at Barrett hearings Lobbying world MORE (D-Mich.) all deserve enormous praise for their bipartisan leadership on these three bills, which all would have improved the lives of vulnerable children.

We call upon Senate and House leadership to make children a priority and schedule floor action and votes so that voters can know who on Capitol Hill really stands with children and who fails them.

Unfortunately, as it stands now with three major children’s bills dead in the 114th Congress, we know that far too many members rather hold children hostage to the whims of special interests. That is not in the interest of children or our nation’s future.

Bruce Lesley is president of First Focus Campaign for Children

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.