One of the many pieces of unfinished business Congress left behind last week was a reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The Senate had passed their version of a reauthorization on March 13, when the legislation passed by a vote of 96 to two. When a deal was announced with the House members of the Education and Workforce Committee days ago, the glide-path to passage for the first time in 18 years was expected to be certain. The House did act on the bill (a substitute to S 1086) on Monday, September 15 on a voice vote and sent it to the Senate. The Senate attempted to pass it last week but on the last day, it was blocked by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) who had actually voted for and still supports the legislation.

Senator Toomey was seeking a vote on his bill, S 1596, which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require background checks for sexual abuse for school personnel. A similar bill has passed the House but hearings have not been held in the Senate where some have raised concerns about some of the requirements and processes in the bill including appeals processes for the individual subject of the check of registries and the FBI fingerprint database. As a result Senator Toomey blocked the child care bill until he could get a hearing and presumably a vote out of the Senate Committee.

With the Senate scheduled to return the day after Veterans Day (November 12), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has committed (filed a motion) to a vote on November 13 to break what is essentially a filibuster. The legislation would reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) for the first time since 1996 when it was extended as part of the creation of TANF. As an authorization it does not provide actual funding but provides the framework for the annual appropriations and child care allocation process. Child care funding includes $2.3 billion in annual appropriations but also includes a
mandatory fund written into the TANF law currently set at $2.9 billion.

The legislation raises the authorization levels for discretionary CCDBG spending—the authorization has been exceeded by the annual appropriations for approximately 15 years, it requires inspections of child
care facilities including license-exempt facilities, establishes new minimum training for staff, sets up a minimum eligibility period for families receiving child care and has new quality investment requirements.

It is hoped that the Senate, under the schedule Majority Leader Reid has set up, will be the last hurdle for the reauthorization that last took place in 1996.