Clinton Presses Congress for Action on Child Care

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President Clinton warned last week that his plan for child-care tax credits could die a slow death if Congress doesn't turn to it soon.

With the congressional session shortened because of the upcoming fall campaign season, members will have little time to address his proposal to give child-care tax credits to families with incomes below $35,000 and direct grants to low-income families, Mr. Clinton said in a March 10 speech in Bridgeport, Conn.

"There's still time for committee meetings, for staff to do their work, for all that kind of stuff to happen," he said. "We can do this."

But Republicans said they are unlikely to respond to the president's plea, especially since they haven't seen specific legislative language or heard administration lobbyists urging them to act on it. ("Budget Highlights Child Care, Juvenile Justice," Feb 11, 1998.)

"It's his administration's fault for not moving this stuff," said Jay Diskey, the communications director for the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over child-care issues.

"If this president is truly intent on this child-care or any other education proposal, then he needs to get up here," Mr. Diskey said.

Federal Changes

Mr. Clinton also announced in Bridgeport that he would use his executive power to improve the quality of child care offered by the federal government.

By 2000, he will require federal day-care facilities to be fully accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. About three-quarters of military day-care centers are accredited now, but only 35 percent of the centers run by other federal agencies have received that seal of approval, Mr. Clinton said.

He also said that those facilities will soon begin conducting criminal-background checks on all employees.

But those actions won't solve the national child-care dilemma, the president said. His plan would double the number of children receiving federal child-care subsidies, give business tax incentives to provide care, and train child-care workers.

Even if congressional Republicans see the final details of that plan, Mr. Diskey said, many will be skeptical. Only 30 percent of the nation's families pay people to watch their children, he said. The rest rely on parents or other family members for care.

"Any consideration of a new child-care initiative must take into account stay-at-home parents," Mr. Diskey said.

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