What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Separation of Church & State : Providing for consideration of legislation to reauthorize the Head Start program (H.R. 1429)/On adoption of the rules package (H. Res. 348)
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Providing for consideration of legislation to reauthorize the Head Start program (H.R. 1429)/On adoption of the rules package (H. Res. 348)
house Roll Call 274     May 02, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This was the final vote on the rules for consideration for legislation to reauthorize the Head Start program through fiscal 2012.

The resolution outlined the rules for debate for the bill, including how much floor time would be granted to each side and which amendments would be considered in order. The resolution is thus commonly known as the rules package.

Republicans opposed the rules package because the Democratic-controlled Rules Committee proposed what's known as a "structured rule," meaning that only the amendments pre-approved by the panel would get an up-or-down vote on the floor.

Although reauthorizing the early-childhood development program - and thus approving $7.4 billion in funding for fiscal 2008 (and such sums as necessary through fiscal 2012) - found considerable support among Republicans, and a majority of them ended up voting for final passage of the legislation, the rules package was a different matter.

Republicans balked because they wanted to offer an amendment to allow religious organizations that receive federal funds to use a potential employee's religious affiliation as a factor in hiring. The Rules Committee blocked a Republican amendment to that effect from being considered on the House floor, however, drawing Republican objection. The provision had been included in previous Head Start authorization bills. Approximately 80 organizations that receive federal grants for early-childhood programs have religious affiliations, though not all consider religious affiliation in selecting their employees

Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) said "the Democratic majority pays lip service to their support of religious people and faith-based groups, but now they are here today, in this House, enacting a piece of legislation that I believe is a shot across the bow to all faith-based organizations that are involved in social services in this country. The Head Start bill today says that if you participate in the grant process, you will not be able to hire like-minded people to work in your child-care facility."

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) countered that "No citizen should have to pass a religious test to qualify for a publicly funded job."

"Religious organizations who run Head Start programs are not asking for this change," Castor continued. "They have written us to oppose it. Head Start teachers and staff should be chosen because they are qualified and they are effective teachers who will help children succeed and thrive. Hiring and firing decisions should not be made because of a teacher's religion. This is part of an ongoing attempt, I am afraid, by some on the other side of the aisle to make religion a wedge issue."

On a completely party-line vote, the House voted to approve the rules package. Thus, by a vote of 226 to 196, the rules for consideration of a bill to reauthorize the federal early-childhood program Head Start passed, and the legislation moved towards an up-or-down vote.

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