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Congress Votes to Help Kids!

In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate joined the House last night in its desire to help children by voting passage of H.R. 6655, An Act to Protect our Kids. Following a 330-77 vote in the House, the Senate voted unanimous consent to support the bill. The legislation, signed into law today by President Obama, creates a new, two-year national commission to develop a wide-ranging strategy for ending the upwards of 2500 child abuse and neglect deaths a year.

Just 3 weeks ago the bill was given no chance for adoption this year, but in a surprise move, in cooperation with primary House sponsor Lloyd Doggett [D-TX], House Ways and Means Committee Chair David Camp [R-MI] and subcommittee Chair Erik Paulsen [R-WI] called for a hearing on the bill in mid-December. The bill then moved rapidly through the House, at which point the primary Senate sponsors—Kerry [D-MA], Baucus [D-MT], Shaheen [D-NH], Snowe [R-ME], and Collins  [R-ME], shepherded the bill through the last day of a fractious 112th Congress. (For a full list of sponsors, please see below.) Hopefully an omen of things to come in 2013, the new law will spotlight the needs of desperate children and families, and will present the Administration and lawmakers with a multi-disciplinary approach for addressing them.

 

Adoption of the bill also demonstrated the effectiveness and strength of a unified legislative strategy when advocates and other friends of children work together. Thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations told Congress they wanted this bill passed.

Roles large and small were played by the thousands who signed a petition to Congress, the hundreds of organizations which endorsed the bill, the state advocacy groups who called their members of Congress, donors who covered printing and organizing costs, Congressional staff, journalists who singled out the issue for coverage, graduate students who employed social networking to spread the message, the bill’s House and Senate sponsors, ECM staff and board members, and, especially, the leaders and staff of ECM’s four National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths partners—the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the National Children’s Alliance, and the National Resource Center for Child Death Review.

Hard work lies ahead. Creation of the new national commission won’t ensure that services to kids aren’t cut in the budget battles just ahead, much less win urgently needed new federal investments in children. But for the first time in decades a Congressionally sponsored panel will be collecting information on the conditions which create violence for so many children in their own homes. And that could help prompt our national government to make investments in children and families a budget and political priority.

We’ll keep you posted on developments as they occur.

Sponsors of An Act to Protect our Kids:

Senate:
Baucus, Max (D-MT)
Cardin, Benjamin (D-MD)
Collins, Susan (R-ME)
Conrad, Kent (D-ND)
Kerry, John (D-MA)
Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)
Snowe, Olympia (R-ME)

House:
Bass, Karen (D-CA)
Berg, Rick (R-ND)
Boustany, Charles (R-LA)
Camp, Dave (D-MI)
Crowley, Joseph (D-NY)
Larson, John (D-CT)
Levin, Sander (D-MI)
Lewis, John (D-GA)
Marchant, Kenny (R-TX)
McDermott, Jim (D-WA)
Neal, Richard (D-MA)
Pascrell, Bill (D-NJ)
Paulsen, Erik (R-MN)
Rangel, Charles (D-NY)
Reed, Tom (R-NY)
Reichert, David (R-WA)
Tiberi, Patrick (R-OH)