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Child Care Block Grant Slated for Senate Passage

An update to the Child Care Development Block Grant program could be on President Barack Obama's desk by the end of next week, if Congress holds to schedule.

The Senate will begin the process of taking up the measure on Thursday with final passage expected early next week, according to a Senate aide.

The measure, which has not been updated since 1996, would require states to conduct comprehensive background checks on child-care providers, something only about a dozen states call for now. It would also give parents more information about available child-care options, including faith-based and community-based providers, and allow parents to choose a program that best suits their family's needs.

According to the Senate aide, lawmakers will vote on the House-passed version of the bill, which differs slightly from the version cleared by the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committtee in September. Amendments won't be considered due to the way the vote is structured.

It's unclear whether that procedural tactic is being used to overcome a roadblock the bill ran into before Congress recessed for the elections in September: Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., had put a hold on the proposal in order to shine a light on his own similar bill, which at the time, he was demanding a vote on.

Toomey's bill, the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, would require schools to perform background checks on all new and existing employees and forbid schools from hiring people who have been convicted of certain crimes, including any violent or sexual crime against a child.

The measure, which the House passed last October, would also ban schools from "passing the trash"—the practice where a school allows a known child molester to resign quietly and helps that person find a new teaching job.

Both Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and ranking member Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., support the goal of Toomey's proposal, but each have specific grievances with it.

Whether or not the procedural tactic is specifically aimed at side-stepping Toomey's grievances, it precludes him from offering an amendment to alter the final bill language.

Also teed up for passage before the end of the 113th Congress is an education research bill. Before lawmakers scattered back to their home districts for campaign season, the two chambers reached a bipartisan, bicameral deal on the Strengthening Education Through Research Act, which would reauthorize federal education research through the Institute of Education Sciences.

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