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Burr: There Is a Better Way to Build on Successful, Existing Child Care Programs

Ranking Member Burr criticizes Democrats’ destructive, partisan child care proposal that limits parent choice, destroys mixed model of care, and increases costs for families across the nation

Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held an executive session to consider the nominations of Lisa Gomez to be the Assistant Secretary for the Employee Benefits Security Administration at the Department of Labor, James Rodriguez to be the Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment and Training at the Department of Labor, Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson to be the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Shelly Lowe to be the Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Susan Harthill to be a Member of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

In his opening statement, Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) criticized the Democrats’ child care and preschool proposals included in their reckless tax-and-spending spree. Senator Burr urged his colleagues to consider the devastating impacts on existing, bipartisan child care programs, the dramatic increase in child care costs, the aggressive regulatory control, and the increased costs for working families.

Ranking Member Burr’s full prepared opening statement:

“I will have comments for the record on the nominations before us today. Some I support, others I strongly oppose.

“But I would like to turn our attention to the child care and preschool proposals in the partisan bill the House sent over to us.

“In 1990, before any of us serving on this Committee were in Congress, President George H. W. Bush and a Democratic majority passed the bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant to help families afford child care and preschool for their children.

“It has been a resounding, bipartisan success that members on both sides of the aisle proudly support.

“Twelve million children each year rely on non-parental care while their parents work, or get education and job training so they can eventually work and support their families.

“Parents need affordable, safe, and reliable child care and preschool education. We all agree on that.

“We Republicans have asked for hearings and a markup on the proposal that puts Washington at the center of every decision a family makes about child care and preschool in every state, county, city, and local community.

“We have not been given that chance.

“So, here are four things I want everyone in the country to understand about these proposals, which I consider to be destructive to child care in this country.

“One: Faith-based or religious providers will close, as will small family child care homes and kinship care settings. Two: Child care and preschool costs will rise, dramatically. Three: States will be burdened with huge costs and aggressive federal government control. And four: This entire proposal is built on a series of budget gimmicks to hide the costs to the American taxpayers until it is too late.

“I’m going to go through all four points.

“The proposal before us ends the ability of faith-based or religious providers to participate in child care and preschool.

“First, it overrides the 30-year bipartisan agreement – an agreement crafted by this very committee, passed by bipartisan majorities, and one which has stood the test of time – that allows faith-based providers to participate in these programs without compromising their religious mission and directly applying federal civil rights laws on all participants.

“Second, it calls the new funding “direct financial assistance” to providers, further undermining religious providers’ ability to participate in these programs.

“Third, this bill makes the funds “grants” and “contracts” instead of “certificates,” as the law has done for 30 years, further intertwining funds for families with government rules.

“These proposals make faith-based providers choose between God and mammon – that is between their faith and federal funding.

“But Matthew Chapter 6, verse 24 says, “No man can serve two masters.”

“The House bill intentionally and deliberately sets out to destroy the ability of faith-based providers to participate. The Senate will have to choose whether it will follow the same path.

“Second, child care and preschool costs will rise dramatically. Dramatically.

“Let’s start with the cost estimation model that must be approved by HHS – bureaucrats in Washington who think everything looks like the city they live in and who have not once operated a child care program or been responsible for a running a program. 

“Next, the living wage, also determined by Washington bureaucrats. Will they allow geographic diversity? Will cities have different rates than rural and suburban areas? The California model of driving up costs at every opportunity is all the Secretary knows.

“And the bill intentionally shrinks the supply of providers by killing off the faith-based providers, small child care homes, and kinship care, so the laws of economics dictate that prices skyrocket. 

“The People’s Policy Project, a liberal or progressive group, estimates that unsubsidized families will pay $13,000 more per year. Per year.

“This is a child care tax, plain and simple.

“Steady or increasing demand, with shrinking supply results in dramatic price spikes. That’s economics 101.

“Some have called this “cost-disease socialism” where government dramatically drives up the costs of a program, then imperfectly subsidizes the costs for some.

“The cost to the federal government skyrockets, the unsubsidized then demand access to subsidies to afford the massive government-induced inflation in costs, and the cycle repeats.

“Third, states will be burdened with huge costs and aggressive federal government control.

“The child care entitlement has a five percent state matching requirement for this new uncapped entitlement. A five percent state match may not sound all that high to some. Your governors and legislators will likely disagree.

“And states have to serve people making up to 250 percent of state median income, which can be as high as $300,000 a year. 

“CBO can’t tell us what those matching costs to states are. CRS can’t tell us what those matching costs to states are. I haven’t seen any formula runs from the House. I guess you have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.

“The preschool program waives free money in front of the states and then grows over time to a 37 percent state match.

“That’s a lot of money, especially when you don’t get to set the rules.

“Even worse, if a state says they don’t want to participate, they aren’t given a choice. The Secretary can go around governors and legislators and give money and rules to local providers.

“And if states do participate, they lose control of their standards, teacher qualifications, accountability systems, costs, and who is eligible.

“West Virginia wouldn’t be able to say that you have to actually be a West Virginian to get services. North Carolina wouldn’t be able to say that you have to be here legally in this country to get services.

“Washington sets the rules. Period.

“You know what program no state has opted out of? The bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant.

“I guess putting more money into CCDBG, which during the pandemic has shown to be the right federal and state architecture to best serve children and families makes too much sense. 

“Finally, this entire proposal is built on a series of budget gimmicks to hide the costs to the American taxpayers until it is too late

“The programs both end funding in six years.

“I know that saves money on the CBO score, but it’s not very honest.

“Both programs also ramp up their costs over time, to hide the cost of the program, getting the most expensive just as they are turned off.

“That’s not responsible program design. It’s not honest accounting to the taxpayers.

“It’s artful dodging in the hopes that the Finance committee and state legislatures will come to the rescue with new tax increases six years from now to save the program.

“There is a better way, and I hope that my colleagues and my friends on the other side of the aisle will join with Senator Tim Scott and follow his advice.

“We need to empower parents, not government.

“We need to help families afford childcare and preschool, not make it more expensive.

“We need to raise up our faith-based providers, child care homes, kinship care, not make them the enemy.

“It’s not too late, my friends. We can restore the bipartisan conversation on child care, we can work together and expand on the work we’ve done for the past three decades together.

“It just doesn’t have to be this way.

“I yield back.”