Policy Resource

The FY 2011 Chess Game: It’s the Senate’s Move

Mar 7, 2011

The chess game to reach agreement on final federal spending for FY 2011 continues, with the Senate voting this week on two funding bills.

One is the House continuing resolution (H.R. 1) passed a few weeks ago that would cut $61.5 billion from 2010 levels. Click here to read our analysis of H.R. 1. The other continuing resolution is a Senate alternative, backed by the White House, that would avoid the deep cuts in H.R. 1 to programs affecting young children. It would still provide for the critical areas babies need for healthy development, including child care and early learning programs, access to doctors, good nutrition, stable housing, adequate heating, families free from substance abuse, and more. Additionally, the Senate alternative would restore funding for several of the programs affecting children that were cut from the short-term continuing resolution.

Most important, the Senate alternative recognizes the importance of early childhood programs by including an additional $340 million for Head Start/Early Head Start ($1.4 billion above the level provided in H.R. 1) and an additional $310 million for child care ($350 million more than H.R. 1). The increases in the Senate alternative would enable many children who otherwise would lose access to early childhood services to remain in the programs. It also would increase the set-aside to improve infant-toddler child care by $15 million, again recognizing the importance of high quality services to promote healthy development.

Efforts of early childhood advocates, including the infant-toddler community, helped produce the strong support for early childhood in the Senate alternative as well as the rejection of the damaging cuts in other areas important to young children. It is likely that the battle over the level of cuts and final spending levels will continue well beyond the votes this week. Neither is expected to prevail, but the next move on the chess board may depend on how strong a signal of support for children’s services is sent by the votes on the two measures. Advocates need to first urge Senators to reject the deep cuts proposed in continuing resolution H.R. 1 and vote for the Senate alternative. Next, we need to keep the importance of early childhood programs in the forefront as negotiations continue.

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