Adversaries who pushed different strategies for federal help with child care announced Tuesday that they have forged an alliance and worked out most of their past differences.
Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., announced they will sponsor bills together that are hybrids and compromises of each other's past unsuccessful child-care legislation."This is the year for child care," Hatch said. "We're going to get it done this year."
Hatch and Dodd said one of the bills they plan to introduce Wednesday calls for an income tax credit for child care. Hatch has proposed such a credit before.
Under its provisions, a household with children would qualify for a credit as long as one parent worked - even if the other remained home with the children.
Hatch has said that would reward mothers who stay at home and would allow use of grandmothers and other relatives for child care. Hatch estimated full funding for that would cost about $2.5 billion.
The two senators are also sponsoring the "Act for Better Child Care," which contains many of the provisions that Dodd and Democrats have proposed in the past.
Among other provisions, states would get $2.5 billion to assist low- and middle-income families with child care, provide after-school care, make available loans for start-up of child care and allow training for providers.
That bill would also establish minimum national standards for child care but only for publicly funded facilities. Critics such as Hatch had worried minimum federal standards might not allow grandmothers or other relatives to legally provide child care, while supporters said it is needed to ensure care is safe.
Dodd said both bills are now viewed as essential components to the overall solution for child care, while in the past they were often viewed as one-or-the-other options. He said the package "is the product of literally dozens of hours of negotiation" and "combines the best of the child-care legislation introduced in the 100th Congress."
But Hatch said all the differences between Republicans and Democrats have not totally been ironed out. "This will be the base bill to build on . . . it signals the continuation of discussions we began last fall."
He said differences remaining include how exactly to work out standards for publicly funded day-care centers and on how many new programs to assist child care should be started.
The announced alliance on child care received quick praise from many groups.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., the chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, which will oversee the legislation, said, "I commend Sen. Hatch for his bipartisan approach to this issue . . . For two decades, we have failed to address the increasingly urgent challenge of child care, and now we can delay no longer."