Russ Carnahan on Families & Children
Democratic Representative (MO-3)
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:
Rep. STEVE LYNCH (D, MA-9): This bill takes an important step toward improving the Federal Government's ability to recruit and retain a highly qualified workforce by providing paid parental leave to Federal and Congressional employees for the birth, adoption or placement of a child for foster care, which is a benefit that is extended to many in the private sector in other industrialized countries.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. DARRELL ISSA (R, CA-49): This bill sends the wrong message at the wrong time to working American taxpayers and families that are struggling in difficult times. Our economy is in crisis, and deficits are already soaring. This bill does not have one provision to say if you make $170,000 a year, why do we have to give you this benefit, because you have to choose between feeding your children and being with your children? Certainly not. There are no protections against, in fact, those who do not need this special benefit getting it. There are no safeguards at all. As a matter of fact, this bill envisions the $1 billion over 5 years, swelling to $4 billion over 10 years or more because, in fact, they believe it should be 8 weeks of special leave. Federal employees enjoy one of the highest levels of job security, without a doubt, anywhere in the United States. I would venture to say many of them the highest. More importantly, in good times and bad, they keep their jobs.
Strengthen America’s Families
While the steady reduction in the number of two-parent families of the last 40 years has slowed, more than one-third of our children still live in one- or no-parent families. There is a high correlation between a childhood spent with inadequate parental support and an adulthood spent in poverty or in prison.
To strengthen families, we must redouble efforts to reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancies, make work pay, eliminate tax policies that inadvertently penalize marriage, and require absent fathers to pay child support while offering them new opportunities to find work. Because every child needs the attention of at least one caring and competent adult, we should create an “extended family” of adult volunteer mentors.
Family breakdown is not the only challenge we face. As two-worker families have become the norm, harried parents have less time to spend on their most important job: raising their children. Moreover, parents and schools often find themselves contending with sex- and violence-saturated messages coming from an all-pervasive mass entertainment media.
We should continue public efforts to give parents tools to balance work and family and shield their children from harmful outside influences. For example, we should encourage employers to adopt family-friendly policies and practices such as parental leave, flex-time, and telecommuting. Public officials should speak out about violence in our culture and should press the entertainment media to adopt self-policing codes aimed at protecting children.
A bill to amend the National Child Protection Act of 1993 to establish a permanent background check system. Congress finds the following:
Authorizes grants to states for sex education programs, including education on abstinence and contraception, to prevent teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Expresses the sense of Congress that states are encouraged, although not required, to provide matching funds to receive such grants.
Requires the Secretary to provide for a national evaluation of a representative sample of such programs for effectiveness in delaying the initiation of sexual intercourse and other high-risk behaviors, preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, and increasing contraceptive knowledge and behavior. Requires states receiving such grants to provide for an individual evaluation of the state's program by an external, independent entity.
A bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to increase the number of children eligible for free school meals, with a phased-in transition period. Expands eligibility for free meals under the school lunch and breakfast programs to children whose family income falls at or below 185% of the federal poverty guidelines.
SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS:
Sen. FRANKEN: In a country as wealthy as ours, it is shameful to let any child go hungry. That is why today, Senator Murkowski and I are introducing the Expand School Meals Act. By eliminating the reduced price meals category and replacing it with the free meal program, this legislation will ensure that low-income children are not denied nutritious food during the school day if their family can't afford to pay for it.
It is important to remember that this will improve student readiness for school. Parents have long known, and recent studies confirm, that children cannot learn on empty stomachs. Hungry children perform worse on achievement tests, have trouble concentrating, and are more likely to act out in school.
There are 3.1 million low-income children across the Nation eligible for reduced-price school meals. Currently, these families must pay 40 cents for each lunch and 30 cents for each breakfast their children eat at school. While this may not sound like a lot of money to members of Congress, to a family that is barely scraping by, especially in today's economy, the cost can be prohibitive.
I would like to conclude by commending my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their leadership in advocating for the extension of free school meals to children of the working poor. These efforts began with Senator Elizabeth Dole, who in 2003 introduced a bill that would have also phased out the reduced price meals category.
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