Ms. CASTOR. Madam Speaker, House Resolution 813 provides for consideration of the conference report for H.R. 1429, the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007. This is the standard rule for a conference report. It waives all points of order against the conference report and against its consideration. It also provides that the conference report shall be considered as read.
Madam Speaker, for over 40 years Head Start has served as the premier educational and developmental program for America's children, more than 20 million American children and their families. Head Start works. Head Start works because it is a well-researched, comprehensive initiative that combines all of the children's educational needs, their health care needs, and it requires parental involvement. Years later, after four decades of Head Start, the research shows that children that participate
in Head Start are [Page: H13868]
more likely to graduate from high school than their peers.
Head Start is a comprehensive approach to child health nutrition and learning, and it is one of our best tools in the struggle to close the achievement gap. The achievement gap for children in poverty in America must be tackled, and Head Start tackles the achievement gap through cognitive social and emotional child development, each of which is a key contributor to entering elementary school ready to succeed.
Today, 20 percent of America's 12 million children under the age of 6 unfortunately live in poverty. We know that a family's income level greatly affects their child's access to educational opportunities. The reality of poverty for so many American children in poverty is tied to their low success rates in schools.
But in America, family income simply should not impede a child's educational opportunities, and this is where Head Start comes in to level the playing field. Back home in Florida in my community in the Tampa Bay area, over 5,300 children are served by Head Start. But we've got thousands of children that are eligible and are on the waiting list. Why are they on the waiting list? Because previous Congresses have failed to properly support our Head Start kids, and this White House has flat-lined
budgets over the years; so our kids merely have been treading water.
There have been no improvements or increases in funding since 2003. And with inflation, it has been very difficult to maintain the well-known, high-quality elements in Head Start. But the good news is that this Congress will change that today and make the smartest investment in our country's future workforce. And the research statistics bear repeating; children that participate in Head Start are more likely to graduate from high school.
We're going to put more children on a path to success today when we pass this bill and this rule. We're going to improve teacher and classroom quality. We're going to strengthen the focus on school readiness. We're going to expand access so children that are on the waiting list can enter Head Start classrooms. We're going to strengthen those all-important comprehensive services of health care and nutrition. We're going to increase the number of children in early Head Start because the research
also shows that it is critical for child brain development that they have interaction by the age of 3, when their brains are developing. We're going to focus on allowing more homeless children to enroll and do a better job for children who are just learning English.
This year marks four decades of success for this holistic wraparound initiative that empowers all of us. These children are eager and ready to learn if we give them the tools.
The administration's slow-motion cuts to Head Start will now be reversed because this Congress, in a bipartisan way, but led by Democrats, is committed to raising strong and healthy children, and Head Start prepares our children to succeed in school and in life.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. CASTOR. Madam Speaker, at this time I am very pleased to yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from California, a member of the Education and Labor Committee and an outspoken advocate for America's kids, Ms. Woolsey.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Madam Speaker, today we're going to reauthorize Head Start and reaffirm, through this conference report, our commitment to this very, very valuable program.
When I came here 15 years ago, I was insisting that my married children make me a grandmother, and they told me it was just none of my business. But since then, I now have five grandchildren among my four families of young adults, and all of my grandchildren go to preschool. And they are lucky because they have working parents who are professionals who can [Page: H13869]
pick out very good schools for them and make sure, the oldest child is 7 1/2 , and he's the only
one in school, he is a second grader, but ensure that when my grandchildren enter grade school, elementary school, that they know what's going on. I mean, I'm telling you, I can't believe it. These kids read, they write, they know their numbers, they know their alphabet, they can play Monopoly, and they aren't even in kindergarten yet. That's what every kid in America deserves, and that's what Head Start does.
Head Start evens the playing field so that the fortunate children in my family aren't the only ones that enter elementary school having read books, having understood that you sit down in a classroom, that you have social needs that you have to learn to deal with when you're a young person and you're going to be dealing with other young people in a classroom situation.
I feel so fortunate, but I also feel so thankful that in a very bipartisan way, under the chairmanship of Mr. Miller and the good leadership of Mr. McKeon, we were able to pass legislation that will finally bring to this floor a Head Start bill.
We need to increase the Head Start funding, of course. We aren't covering every eligible child in the United States, and we must do that over time. It's hard to do when you're spending $1.5 trillion in Iraq. But we must get our priorities in order, and one of our top priorities must be our children. Our children are 25 percent of our population, but guess what? They are 100 percent of our future.
We must support programs like Head Start that ensure that our future, when we become really old people and these young people are running our world and running our Congress, they know what they're doing.
Mr. DREIER. I would simply say to my friend, I joined in heralding the selection of my fellow Californian, Ms. Pelosi, as the first woman, the first Italian American Speaker of the House of Representatives. It was a great day for this institution. I should say she was the first Californian as well. But I will say this, the record that was outlined in today's Roll Call is one which can't be denied by either the Members of the majority or the minority.
I thank my friend for yielding.
Ms. CASTOR. I am happy to debate the record of this Congress under Democratic leadership. The Congress is focused on a new direction, first, to make America safer. We have already taken action to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations to protect America from terrorism. This Congress has passed the largest veterans health care funding increase in the history of the VA. We have adopted energy security legislation that will reduce the threat of global climate change. We continue to hold the
White House accountable for this unending war in Iraq.
In addition, this Congress is restoring the American Dream because now the law of the land is the largest college age expansion since the GI Bill in 1944, where we raised the Pell Grant and we cut the interest rate on student loans. It has been this Congress, and this is important if you are keeping track of the record of this Congress, it was this Congress that raised the minimum wage for millions of Americans. We have also adopted an innovation agenda promoting 21st century jobs in a global
economy. We have sent aid to the gulf coast for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and for the millions of Americans that continue to struggle day to day with the impact of those disasters. And we are fighting for health care, to expand health care to 10 million more American children.
Madam Speaker, we have also adopted a widely acclaimed and landmark lobby and ethics reform bill. And it has been this Congress that has returned to financial sanity and fiscal responsibility by adhering to pay-as-you-go discipline, no new deficit spending.
So I am very pleased to debate the record of this Congress on the floor of the House. We will work in a bipartisan way to build consensus. More than two-thirds of this legislation has passed in a bipartisan manner. We will strive to find common ground where we can, like here on the Head Start bill. But where we cannot, we will stand our ground, like on the Iraq bill that we will bring later today.
Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Madam Speaker, the record brought out today by the Roll Call editorial, that I am very pleased, by the way, that our ranking member brought forth and read into the Record, I think is important for a number of reasons.
Again, I was also here when the distinguished Speaker was elected in January. I recall the promises at that time and during the campaign, the electoral campaign that preceded that ceremony in January. The promises were, and I am sure they will be recalled, to have a more open process, a more transparent House. So the reason why I think it is most appropriate now to bring out the record that Roll Call in [Page: H13871]
an editorial has outlined is that instead of seeing,
during this year, this first year of this Congress, a more open process, a more transparent process, a more democratic process, what we have seen is a more than doubling of the closed rules, of the gag rules, if you will, the gag rules that don't permit any amendments on legislation.
Since we are discussing the rule, by the way, on legislation that is an example of bipartisanship, the Head Start program is one that has been supported from its inception in a bipartisan manner, but we are discussing the rule, the means to debate this legislation, the procedure, if you will, to debate the legislation, I think it's appropriate to bring out the more than doubling by a majority that promised more transparency and more democracy in the running of the House, a more than doubling
of gag rules that prohibit debate, that prohibit any amendments for debate. So I think that is appropriate to bring forth. And I commend Roll Call that, yes, was very critical when we were in the majority of many of the things that happened at that time. But a doubling, more than doubling of the impropriety, of the gag rules by a majority that promised more transparency is not only important to bring out but I think it is most unfortunate.
At this time, Madam Speaker, I would like to yield 3 minutes to a distinguished colleague who has worked so much on this legislation in an admirable way, as he has on many issues of great importance to the American people, Mr. Castle of Delaware.
Mr. CASTLE. I would like to thank the gentleman from Florida for yielding, and I apologize for returning to such a mundane subject as the rule before us, but that is what I am here to do.
I do rise in support of this rule, and I would like to thank Chairman Miller along with Mr. McKeon and Mr. Kildee, as well as their staffs, for the work they have done over the last several Congresses to strengthen and improve the Head Start program.
Since 1965, the Head Start program has given economically disadvantaged children access to the same educational, health, nutritional, social and other services that were enjoyed by their more affluent peers. The goal of the program was, as it remains today, to provide children a solid foundation that will prepare them for success in school and later in life. As the centerpiece of the Federal Government's efforts to support quality early childhood education for our Nation's most disadvantaged
youth, Head Start has served nearly 20 million low-income children and their families. Currently, Head Start serves over 900,000 children every day and has over 1,600 grantees across the United States. In my home State of Delaware, Head Start programs serve over 2,000 children with over 800 additional 3- and 4-year-olds receiving assistance through State Government funding.
Although we can agree on the need for Head Start and its successes, we must also recognize that the Head Start program is capable of producing even greater results for our children. Students who attend Head Start programs do start school more prepared than those with similar backgrounds who do not attend Head Start. Head Start students continue, however, to enter kindergarten well below national norms in school readiness. By moving to close the school readiness gap, the bipartisan Improving Head
Start for School Readiness Act will improve results for almost a million Head Start students across the Nation.
I believe strongly in the Head Start program, particularly because of how the program helps children later in their academic lives. Despite the positive reputation of Head Start overall, however, there have been reports which have unfortunately uncovered the fact that some individuals have taken advantage of the taxpayer dollars that fund the program to line their own pockets. Along with the expertise of the Government Accountability Office and through reforms made in this bill, changes will
be made to avoid these issues in the future. I feel this is the right step to take for the benefit of the program, and I thank everyone for finding what I hope will be a resolution to the pockets of abuse.
As I said at the outset, Head Start is an important and very popular program. The importance of early childhood education and services cannot be overstated. I believe strongly that the reforms sought with this bill will go a long way to institute needed reforms to an already successful program.
I support passage of this rule and the conference report to H.R. 1429.
Mr. LOEBSACK. I thank the gentlewoman from Florida for yielding.
I want to commend Chairman Miller, Mr. McKeon, Mr. Kildee and Mr. Castle on their impressive work on this truly bipartisan legislation. This conference report is proof positive that in spite of the rancor evident this morning, when we put our minds to it and work together, we can, in fact, get things done in this Congress.
Head Start offers comprehensive early childhood development services to our Nation's neediest children. These comprehensive services are key to the program's success. Head Start engages parents and the community in students' lives and provides important nutritional, health and social services.
Studies show that children who enroll in Head Start excel academically, they have fewer health problems, and adapt better both socially and emotionally. I am proud to say that over 9,600 children are enrolled in the program in Iowa.
I grew up in poverty, and I know firsthand how important programs like Head Start are to low-income families. I urge my colleagues to support this conference report and this rule, and I hope it will be quickly signed into law.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Madam Speaker, it is my privilege at this time to yield 3 minutes to the distinguished ranking member of the Education Committee, Mr. McKeon of California.
Mr. McKEON. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I am pleased to rise in support of the rule on the conference report for the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act. This rule will allow the House to give final endorsement to a bill that will strengthen and improve the Head Start early childhood education program.
I would like to begin by recognizing members of the Education and Labor Committee for their efforts to produce this bipartisan conference report. Representatives CASTLE and KILDEE, along with Chairman Miller and our staffs, have done great work to strengthen and improve this critical program.
In more than 50,000 Head Start classrooms around the Nation, nearly 1 million disadvantaged children are being given the tools and resources to help put them on a path to success which is a win-win for the country.
We have spent a great deal of time this year working to strengthen the No Child Left Behind Act. That law is, at its most basic level, about closing the achievement gap in our Nation's schools. However, the gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers do not begin in elementary school. That's why we have Head Start. This program is designed to help close the readiness gap in children before they ever enroll in school. The health, developmental and educational services offered through this
program truly do give a head start to those children than they otherwise enter school already lagging behind.
Some studies have shown that children enrolled in Head Start do make progress, but there's significant work yet to be done in closing that readiness gap. I also believe it's critical to strengthen the financial controls in Head Start so that we can prevent the types of waste, fraud and abuse that have been uncovered over the past 5 years. Republicans acted aggressively to root out cases of financial abuse and mismanagement. We sought the expertise of the Government Accountability Office to identify
weaknesses in the financial control network of the program. Through this bill, we will institute structural changes to prevent future breaches in the program's trust.
Our committee has been working to strengthen and reform this program going on 5 years, and I believe that dedication has paid off. Certainly this [Page: H13872]
bill is not perfect, but on issues where there were disagreements, I am pleased that we have forged compromises. Head Start is a good program, capable of achieving even greater results. With this bill, I believe we can make that happen.
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of this rule, and I look forward to House passage of this conference report so it can go to the President for his signature.
Ms. CASTOR. Madam Speaker, I am the last speaker for our side, so I will reserve the balance of my time until the gentleman from Florida has made his closing remarks.
Mr. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I will be asking for a ``no'' vote on the previous question so that we can amend this rule and move toward passing a conference report on the bipartisan Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act.
The House passed the veterans and military funding bill on June 15 by a vote of 409-2, with the Senate following suit and naming conferees on September 6. Unfortunately, the majority leadership in the House has refused to move the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. They have even refused to name conferees.
Now, the question that is begged, Mr. Speaker, is why has the majority decided to hold off on moving this bill that obviously has such bipartisan support. Well, according to several publications, including this one, Roll Call, the majority intends to hold off sending appropriations bills to President Bush so that they can use the veto of the Labor-HHS appropriations bill to serve as ``an extension of their successful public relations campaign on the SCHIP program.''
Ms. CASTOR. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Speaker, by passing the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 and this rule, we will build on the great success of Head Start for America's hardworking families. I would like to salute the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, George Miller; subcommittee Chair, Dale Kildee; the ranking member, Mr. McKeon; and Congressman Castle from the committee, and all the committee members from Education and Labor for their wonderful work
on this Head Start bill.
I would also like to thank the parents across America who are struggling to provide all that they can for their children. We are on their side. This Democratic Congress is charting a new direction with wise investments in education and health care for our kids, which are certain to pay dividends in the years to come.
Madam Speaker, this is an important day for America because Congress is going to keep the promise that it made four decades ago to children who are born with the same potential but, because of their life circumstances, are in need of a little extra attention, health care, nutrition and the guiding hand of a knowledgeable and talented teacher, which together provides them with a true ``head start.'' I urge a ``yes'' vote on the previous question and on the rule.
The material previously referred to by Mr. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida is as follows:
Amendment to H. Res. 813 Offered by Mr. Diaz-Balart of Florida
At the end of the resolution, add the following:
SEC. 3. The House disagrees to the Senate amendment to the bill, H.R. 2642, making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, and for other purposes, and agrees to the conference requested by the Senate thereon. The Speaker shall appoint conferees immediately, but may declare a recess under clause 12(a) of rule I for the purpose of consulting the Minority Leader prior to such appointment.
The motion to instruct conferees otherwise in order pending the appointment of conferees instead shall be in order only at a time designated by the Speaker in the legislative schedule within two additional legislative days after adoption of this resolution.
(The information contained herein was provided by Democratic Minority on multiple occasions throughout the 109th Congress.)
The Vote on the Previous Question: What It Really Means
This vote, the vote on whether to order the previous question on a special rule, is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Democratic majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan. It is a vote about what the House should be debating.
Mr. Clarence Cannon's Precedents of the House of Representatives, (VI, 308-311) describes the vote on the previous question on the rule as ``a motion to direct or control the consideration of the subject before the House being made by the Member in charge.'' To defeat the previous question is to give the opposition a chance to decide the subject before the House. Cannon cites the Speaker's ruling of January 13, 1920, to the effect that ``the refusal of the House to sustain the demand for the
previous question passes the control of the resolution to the opposition'' in order to offer an amendment. On March 15, 1909, a member of the majority party offered a rule resolution. The House defeated the previous question and a member of the opposition rose to a parliamentary inquiry,
asking who was entitled to recognition. Speaker Joseph G. Cannon (R-Illinois) said: ``The previous question having been refused, the gentleman from New York, Mr. Fitzgerald, who had asked the gentleman to yield to him for an amendment, is entitled to the first recognition.''
Because the vote today may look bad for the Democratic majority they will say ``the vote on the previous question is simply a vote on whether to proceed to an immediate vote on adopting the resolution ..... . [and] has no substantive legislative or policy implications whatsoever.'' But that is not what they have always said. Listen to the definition of the previous question used in the Floor Procedures Manual published by the Rules Committee in the 109th Congress, (page 56). Here's how the Rules
Committee described the rule using information from Congressional Quarterly's ``American Congressional Dictionary'': ``If the previous question is defeated, control of debate shifts to the leading opposition member (usually the minority Floor Manager) who then manages an hour of debate and may offer a germane amendment to the pending business.''
Deschler's Procedure in the U.S. House of Representatives, the subchapter titled ``Amending Special Rules'' states: ``a refusal to order the previous question on such a rule [a special rule reported from the Committee on Rules] opens the resolution to amendment and further debate.'' (Chapter 21, section 21.2) Section 21.3 continues: ``Upon rejection of the motion for the previous question on a resolution reported from the Committee on Rules, control shifts to the Member leading the opposition
to the previous question, who may offer a proper amendment or motion and who controls the time for debate thereon.''
Clearly, the vote on the previous question on a rule does have substantive policy implications. It is one of the only available tools for those who oppose the Democratic majority's agenda and allows those with alternative views the opportunity to offer an alternative plan.