Mr. BURR. Mr. President, I come to the floor today because in just a little over 2 hours we are going to take up the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. Let me explain what that is.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Program was created in 1990 to provide a voucher to meet the childcare needs of families at risk of having to make the decision that one or both parents couldn't work because childcare had such a tremendous expense with it. We wanted those parents to be able to participate in the productive part of our economy and society.
I can honestly say this is one of the most successful programs Congress has ever produced. The program, as is the case with every bill, is required to be reauthorized after a certain period of time. It was started in 1995--I might add the year I got here--and it was reauthorized in 1996. This was the last time this bill was ever reauthorized.
Now, let me point out that authorization and funding are two different things. These vouchers have existed in the system but Congress has not reauthorized the program; therefore, we haven't changed the program since 1996. I ask my colleagues to stop for a moment and think about how society has changed since 1996. The world has changed since 1996. Things we took for granted in 1996 we need proof of today. Things we didn't worry about in 1996 we worry about today. Let me suggest that childcare is no different. There is still a need for some type of vouchers for families who are on the bubble, and I dare say that childcare has gotten incredibly expensive since 1996.
I rise today to congratulate this body because this afternoon, in just under 2 hours, we are going to pass the first reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant program since 1996. I will be really very honest; it wouldn't be possible if it wasn't for my partner in this endeavor, Barbara Mikulski. Senator Mikulski has been tenacious. She has stood by my side, and she has told me when she didn't think we should move forward, because as easy and as common sense as it sounds, it has been really difficult to get to this point. This has been a 3-year process. So for those who criticize Congress, let me assure those people, we have touched every base we can touch.
Several years ago, while we served as chair and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Children and Families, Senator Mikulski and I promised at that time to address the shortcomings in the CCDBG Program so that children could attend childcare and their families could expect a healthy setting that fostered their development.
Now, for years, we have heard stories about abuse and neglect in many childcare settings--stories that continue to break my heart and, I think, break the heart of every American. We saw numerous inspector general reports that documented unsafe conditions where children were neglected and Federal tax dollars were misused.
Let me stop here and say this. Everything we do in this bill only applies to a childcare facility that accepts CCDBG money. They can be private institutions. They can be faith-based institutions. Their construction can be a combination of all of the above. If they accept one penny of CCDBG money, they are now required to meet the quality standards and safety standards we set in this bill. Now, in North Carolina, that covers practically every childcare facility.
But in every State they don't go to the lengths we do in North Carolina nor that we go to in this piece of legislation. I hope my colleagues will go back to the States they hail from, and they will suggest that things such as background checks for workers at a childcare facility is common sense. To say to a parent who is dropping off a young child, whether the Federal Government subsidized with a voucher or not--that parent should feel 100-percent confident that the worker there is not a convicted felon, that they are not a drug addict, that they have passed the minimal background check that most of us would think is common sense.
I might also take the opportunity to stop and say to the Presiding Officer, who represents Virginia, you might think--gosh, this is a financial burden on all childcare centers. No, this is a $15 investment in the safety of every child who is housed in their facility.
For a program that in many States represents almost all the funding used for childcare subsidies, Senator Mikulski and I knew it was an obligation to act to reauthorize this law so appropriate boundaries were put in place. To continue to ignore these realities would have allowed Federal dollars to keep funding abuse, waste--taxpayers, parents, and children deserved our action.
Since then, between the two of us and our staffs, we have held four HELP Committee hearings. We have 236 hours of negotiations. We have dozens of meetings with 44 advocacy organizations supporting this legislation. The Senate had 18 amendments considered and voted on in this institution, the Senate, back in March when the legislation passed this body of Congress 96 to 2. That was March.
We are here today because the House changed the bill a little bit with our blessings, and this afternoon we are going to take up passage of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.
My hope is this is going to be a unanimous vote by the Senate.
Bringing the HELP Committee together, as the Presiding Officer knows, is very difficult because of the diverse ideology of the makeup of members on the HELP Committee.
It is no small feat we have gotten to this point, and we hold together the support of people who look at the world a little bit differently than I do and may geographically come from a different area than I do.
I wish to publicly say thank you to Chairman Harkin, Ranking Member Alexander, Ranking Member Enzi before that, because if it wasn't for the leadership on the full committee, Senator Mikulski and I would not have had the opportunity to mark it up in committee, to pass it on the Senate floor, to work with the House, and now to have a bill back.
As I conclude, let me just say for the 1.7 million children served nationally by CCDBG and the 80,000 served in my State of North Carolina, safe and quality childcare will now be a priority, ensuring working parents trying to better their lives and those of their children will feel safe using their Federal vouchers.
In short, I urge my colleagues to unanimously support this legislation. We waited way too long since 1996 to make the commonsense changes that provide safety and quality in the childcare that we, the taxpayers, provide to those families on the bubble.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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