As an alternative to President Clinton's child-care initiative, Republican members of Congress are developing proposals of their own that would help not only parents who work outside the home, but also those who stay home to care for their children.
The package is being put together by an influential group of Republican senators led by John Chafee of Rhode Island, with encouragement from Republican leaders in the Senate.Moderates like Chafee play a pivotal role on the issue because they can be expected to vote with a solid group of Democrats in support of major child-care legislation this year.
On Jan. 7, Clinton proposed what he described as "the largest single investment in child care in the nation's history," a combination of federal subsidies and tax credits that would cost $21.7 billion over five years.
The bill drafted by Chafee and his colleagues includes some similar proposals: an increase in the federal income-tax credit that parents can take for child-care expenses; a new tax credit for busi-nesses that build or operate child-care centers for employees, and an increasa in the money that the federal government gives states to subsidize child care.
The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation are still working on cost estimates for the proposals. Republicans said one of their goals was to create a package that would cost less than the president's.
The Republicans would allow, for the first time, parents who stay home to take a version of the tax credit already available to working parents for child-care expenses.
This idea appeals to all sorts of Republicans, including conservatives like Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho.
"The government should not discriminate against parents who decide to stay home and take care of their kids," said Craig, the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.