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 HatchPress: Forget bipartisanship — it's dead! Privatization of foster care has been a disaster for children Remembering Ted Kennedy highlights decline of the Senate MORE (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally A bold fix for US international taxation of corporations Democrats offer competing tax ideas on Biden infrastructure 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyNumber of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports Grassley, Cornyn push for Senate border hearing The Hill's Morning Report - GOP pounces on Biden's infrastructure plan MORE (R-Iowa), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs Biden hopes to boost climate spending by billion MORE (D-Vt.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 Lobbying world MORE (R-Kan.), and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowFive things to watch on Biden infrastructure plan Senators introduce bipartisan bill to expand electric vehicle charging tax credit Bottom line 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.