As a mom, I know that parents have an increasingly difficult job in today’s world. The economic pressures, the time demands, and the many outside influences that affect even the youngest children – all of these make this an especially challenging time for American families.
All parents want to protect their children and make sure they have the best possible chance to grow up and succeed in life. Too many Minnesota families are struggling to make ends meet, and an ever-increasing number of people find themselves simultaneously bearing the responsibility of caring for their aging parents while also raising their own children.
Ultimately, our national well-being – our economic prosperity and our quality of life – depends on the strength of our families. We must support strong families and make sure parents have the tools they need to protect their children and do what’s best for them.
I will continue to work to make sure that our children grow up in healthy and safe environments, and that all of our families have the resources they need to deal successfully with today's challenges.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Promoting long-term economic growth, good jobs, and higher wages for Minnesota families. We must foster economic growth and good jobs that benefit Minnesota families by strengthening our commitment to education and training, increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, supporting our small businesses, reforming our tax policies, addressing our nation’s debt, rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, and responsibly reducing red tape. This includes focusing on jobs, wages, and affordable health care, child care, and housing. [See Jobs and the Economy]
- Ensuring working mothers have the support they need to succeed in the workforce.We must make sure women - especially moms - have the support they need as we work to improve the financial health of families. I know that addressing the workforce shortage includes the return of mothers to the workplace, and I will keep fighting to make sure we have programs in place - including paid leave, affordable child care, and mental health resources - that support mothers as they reenter the workplace.
- Fighting for child care and paid sick, family, and medical leave.Minnesota is a leader when it comes to supporting working families. I support providing paid sick days and paid family and medical leave at the federal level so no one has to sacrifice a paycheck for the birth of a child, to care for an elderly parent, or to get treatment for a serious health condition. In addition, we must make sure that early education options are available to all American families. I also support helping families across Minnesota and the country access affordable, quality child care—especially in rural communities. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act with Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska to address the national shortage of child care providers and safe child care facilities by providing grants for states to train child care workers and build or renovate child care facilities in areas facing child care shortages.
- Expanding higher education opportunities. Minnesotans have always believed that investing in higher education pays extraordinary dividends. But skyrocketing costs prevent many qualified students from attending college and force many others to end their education prematurely. The cost of college has more than quadrupled in the last 30 years. It is no surprise that student loan debt has spun out of control, becoming a crippling financial burden to many young people and their families. More than 780,000 Minnesotans hold federal student loans totaling $26.7 billion. In Minnesota, 63 percent of college students graduate with debt—the fifth highest in the U.S.—and student loan borrowers hold an average of $31,000 in debt upon graduation. I am fighting to gain stronger federal support for higher education opportunities – because our future success as a state and a nation depends on making sure that quality education is accessible and affordable. We also must do a better job of preparing students for the jobs that will be available to them when they graduate – positions that may not require a PhD or even a four-year degree, but nonetheless demand specialized training and experience. Credentials and one- and two-year degrees offered by community and technical colleges may often be a better option for students who plan on entering the skilled workforce immediately after graduation. We must make these degrees a more central focus of our higher education system.
- Protecting children from unsafe products. Parents should be able to trust that the products they buy for their children are safe. Consumers deserve products that have been tested and meet strong health and safety standards. As a member of both the Senate Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, I am fighting to make sure that the federal agencies charged with keeping Americans safe are vigilant in doing their job to protect all consumers from hazardous products.
- Keeping children safe from predators – both on the streets and on the internet. In a fast-changing society, parents need all the help they can get to protect their children from emerging threats to their safety, especially as children spend more time online. I know there are criminals who are intent on victimizing children. Federal support is essential for local law enforcement and the criminal justice system to make sure sex offenders and other potential predators can be identified before they are able to prey on any victims. We also need to prevent digital platforms from harvesting data on our children and promoting harmful content, and I’m working hard with my colleagues to pass new legislation to protect our kids.
- Ensuring that our children are healthy and receive proper nutrition. Our children need proper nutrition so that they can grow into healthy and active adults. Childhood obesity has become a national health issue, with an estimated one out of every three children in the U.S. between the ages of two and 19 overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Ensuring that children have access to nutritious food is critical not only for their own well-being, but for the well-being of our nation. By promoting healthy lifestyles early, we can combat childhood obesity and improve children’s health across the country. With so many families and children at risk of food insecurity, I worked to pass legislation that included additional funding for child nutrition programs to ensure that children continue receiving meals at school. As the Senate works to pass the Farm Bill, I will continue to support policies that help us meet the nutritional needs of our most vulnerable citizens.
- Supporting families and children through adoption. Like so many Minnesotans, I share the belief that every child should have a safe home and a loving family. As county attorney and now as the Senate co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I have worked to assist families who are adopting children. Minnesota has a strong tradition of welcoming children from around the world and holds one of the highest per-capita rates of international adoption. International adoptions should be as safe, straightforward, and affordable as possible for American families. In addition, we must ensure that adoptive families – regardless of whether they are adopting here at home or internationally – have the full support and services they may need throughout and after the adoption process.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors. More than half of older Americans are projected to need some type of long-term care, services, and support in their lives. Seniors want to be able to stay in their homes and live independently as long as possible. Family caregiving support is essential to making that option available. While nursing homes and paid care providers serve our seniors in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal caregivers – more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the number of families coping with the challenges and costs of caring for elderly parents while caring for their own children will continue to grow.
- Ensuring that low-income Minnesotans receive heating assistance. The importance of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) cannot be overstated – especially in states like Minnesota that experience bitterly cold temperatures and lengthy winters. I believe that no Minnesota family should have to choose between heating their home and other basic necessities. That’s why I worked to include additional funding for LIHEAP in the Continuing Resolution and in the funding bill which became law in 2022.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I’ve been fighting to support families and children:
- Promoting long-term economic growth, good jobs, and higher wages for Minnesota families. I am fighting to strengthen the middle class by creating jobs, supporting unions, providing training and education, and sustaining families and workers to help them get ahead. If we’re going to build a strong middle class, we need to make sure that Americans can work their way into it. That’s why I support increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. I also sponsored the Middle Class Opportunity Act, which would increase tax credits for child and dependent care and help families pay for higher education and support for aging parents. [See Jobs and the Economy]
- Fighting for child care and paid sick, family, and medical leave. Minnesota is a leader in providing paid sick leave, paid medical leave, and other policies that support working families. I am working to pass these bills on the national level. I was proud to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act led by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania to protect the rights of pregnant workers, which was signed into law in 2022. I cosponsor the Healthy Families Act led by Senator Patty Murray of Washington to provide up to 7 days of annual paid sick leave and the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. I am also a cosponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act led by Senator Murray to make child care more affordable for families by ensuring no family under 150 percent of state median income pays more than 7 percent of their income on child care and improve training and compensation for the child care workforce. I lead the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act with Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska to address the national shortage of child care providers and safe child care facilities by providing grants for states to train child care workers and build or renovate child care facilities in areas facing child care shortages.
- Supporting working moms. I am working to make sure that women have the support they need in the workforce as we rebuild our economy and strengthen the financial health of our families. I introduced the Marshall Plan for Moms resolution to support mothers in the American workforce and call for the passage of a comprehensive set of relief programs that will support mothers as they reenter the workforce.
- Expanding health care coverage for children. I have consistently supported the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage to children who do not qualify for Medicaid and whose families cannot afford private insurance. CHIP supports health care coverage for more than 7 million children. In 2018, we successfully extended funding of the program through 2027.
- Making education more affordable by:
- Stopping increases in loan rates. The interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford student loans was set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2013. That is why I cosponsored the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act and the Student Loan Affordability Act to maintain for at least another year the federal student loan interest rate of 3.4 percent. I also worked to prevent the rate from immediately doubling in the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act that was signed into law in 2013.
- Allowing students to refinance loans at lower interest rates. I cosponsored the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act and the Reducing Education Debt Act, which takes several important steps to address the issue of student debt, including allowing student loan borrowers to refinance their student loan debt at lower interest rates and adjusting Pell Grants for inflation so that they keep pace with rising costs.
- Helping students with loan repayment and Pell grants. I worked to pass the College Cost Reduction Act, which created the income-based repayment plan and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and I supported the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which now saves middle-class families up to $2,500 a year on college tuition. I also worked to pass a law removing private lenders from the federal student loan system, which saved taxpayers nearly $68 billion and expanded Pell grants. In December 2020, we also successfully expanded Pell grant eligibility for an additional 1.7 million Americans and restored Pell grant access for incarcerated people. I have supported increases to the maximum Pell Grant as steps toward doubling the maximum award, indexing the Pell Grant levels to inflation, and expanding eligibility to families making up to $100,000 per year, which would open the door to higher education for more low- and middle-income students. I also support expanding the federal loan forgiveness program, particularly to assist those who work in in-demand occupations.
- Providing tuition-free access to two-year community, technical, and tribal colleges. I cosponsored the America’s College Promise Act to create a federal-state partnership that pays for two tuition-free years of school for students in community, technical, or tribal college programs that lead to an associate’s degree, an industry-recognized credential, or credits that are fully transferable to a four-year institution.
- Creating opportunities for training and credential programs and year-round education. I introduced legislation to expand the eligible uses of the ‘529’ tax-advantaged education savings accounts to allow these accounts to be used for training and credential programs that help workers develop the skills needed for 21st century jobs. I also cosponsored the Year-Round Pell Grant Restoration Act—passed in 2017—which restores eligibility for students to apply for Pell grants for summer classes, helping students who do not follow the traditional four-year college path afford higher education. To help people develop skills they need for high-demand careers, I introduced the bipartisan Skills Renewal Act and Skills Investment Act to create a flexible skills training credit and allow tax-advantaged education savings accounts to be used for skills training, apprenticeships, and professional development.
- Expanding access to higher education for low-income and first-generation students. I have been a strong supporter of TRIO programs that continue to provide fundamental support to low-income and first-generation students across Minnesota as they prepare to attend college. I have also been supportive of efforts to simplify the FAFSA form to ensure applying for federal student aid does not serve as a barrier to access to higher education.
- Protect student borrowers and improve student financial literacy. I introduced the Empowering Student Borrowers Act to help students understand the financial implications of student loan debt. Key provisions of this legislation, which were signed into law in May 2018, require institutions of higher education to notify students of their total loan obligations, expected monthly payment, and estimated interest rate, and require the Administration to establish best practices for schools to teach financial literacy to students. In December 2022, we secured a $500 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, which builds on the $400 increase made in 2021 and is another step toward doubling the maximum Pell Grant. I also support indexing the Pell Grant levels to inflation and expanding eligibility to families to open more doors to higher education for more low- and middle-income students.
- Passing the most sweeping reform of our consumer product safety laws in decades. I was a chief author of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), which was signed into law in August 2008, to give the Consumer Product Safety Commission additional authority, resources, and staff to enforce consumer protection laws. The law contains three important provisions I wrote:
- The first provision bans lead in children’s products. There had been no mandatory federal lead standard for children's products until the law was enacted.
- The second provision requires companies to stamp “batch numbers” on children’s products and their packaging, so that parents can quickly identify when products in their homes have been recalled by the government for safety reasons.
- The third provision bans industry-paid travel by members and staff of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumers must have confidence that their consumer regulators are free of influence from the industries they supervise.
- Protecting consumers from unsafe wood imports and supporting our timber producers. I authored the bipartisan Formaldehyde Standards for Composite Wood Act, signed into law in 2009, to protect consumers from potentially hazardous levels of formaldehyde in composite wood products and to ensure the U.S. timber industry is on a level playing field with foreign competitors. The Environmental Protection Agency finalized its rule implementing this law in 2017.
- Protecting children from unsafe products.
- IKEA recall. In 2016, Ted McGee, a 22-month-old from Apple Valley, Minnesota, was killed by a falling IKEA Malm dresser. That same model dresser had previously killed or injured other children after tipping over, but IKEA was still selling the dressers and there was little information available about the danger. I urged the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and IKEA to take strong and definitive action to prevent future injuries and deaths from tip-overs of the Malm dresser. CPSC and IKEA later announced the largest furniture recall in U.S. history, agreed to stop sales of the dresser, and offered a full refund to consumers who had purchased Malm dressers. Following reports of the eighth death from a Malm tip-over in 2017, I renewed calls to the CPSC and IKEA to take action to protect children from dangerous furniture, and in November 2017, CPSC and IKEA relaunched the dresser recall. In 2016, I introduced legislation with Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to direct the CPSC to adopt a stronger, mandatory stability standard for clothing storage units. This bill became law in 2022.
- Window blinds. According to data from the CPSC, nearly every month a child dies after becoming tangled in an exposed window cord. I pushed the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) to take advantage of new technologies and implement the strongest possible child safety protections. In June 2016, WCMA announced that it would update the voluntary safety standard for window coverings to eliminate exposed cords from virtually all window coverings and improve safety for children, which they did in 2018.
- Baby food. A February 2021 report released by the House Oversight Committee found that baby food produced by top brands contained dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals. Since consumption of these toxic heavy metals can have lifelong impacts on a baby’s health and neurological development, I worked on and lead legislation with Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois that would put standards and timelines in place to make sure baby food is free from these toxic heavy metals and pushed the FDA to take steps to address these toxic heavy metals through enforcement of existing authorities and implementation of new rules.
- Reforming our nation’s toxic chemicals policy. Our country’s primary law regulating the production and use of chemicals hadn’t been updated since its passage in 1976. That’s why I supported reforms that would keep our children and families safe from toxic substances while providing businesses with clear standards for developing new products. The Senate bill that updated the Toxic Substances Control Act, which I cosponsored, was signed into law in 2016.
- Passing a new law to protect children from unsafe swimming pools. In 2007, legislation that I helped write to improve the safety of our nation’s public swimming pools was signed into law by President Bush. I took a personal interest in the issue of dangerous swimming pool drains after a horrific incident in the summer of 2007, when six-year-old Abigail Taylor of Edina, Minnesota, was partly disemboweled by the powerful suction of a wading pool drain. After months of surgeries and hospital care, Abigail tragically died from complications from those injuries. It turns out this was not an isolated incident. Government statistics showed dozens of cases in which children were injured or trapped by the powerful suction of these pool drains. Yet, legislation to correct the problem had been stalled in Congress for years. After consulting with the Taylor family and national child safety experts, I wrote two crucial amendments to the pool safety legislation that had been pending before Congress for years. One provision made tough new safety standards retroactive to existing pools that are intended for public use and the other required public pools with single drains to install the latest drain safety technology. Both amendments were included in the final bill. One of my proudest moments as a senator was the night I called Abigail's father, Scott Taylor, to tell him we had adopted the legislation and that President Bush was signing it into law. According to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) testimony, since the law’s enactment, there have been no deaths caused by pool drains at public pools in the United States.
In 2022, I worked with Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to strengthen pool safety and protect children from drowning. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Reauthorization Act would bolster safety standards for public swimming pools and spas, and promote awareness to prevent pool-related injuries and deaths. This bill updates key provisions from the original law, including expanding eligibility for the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Swimming Pool Safety Grant Program to nonprofits and tribes. This grant program provides state and local governments with funding to help implement enforcement and education programs that help prevent drownings and drain entrapments in pools and spas. Key provisions from this bill became law in 2022, increasing funding for the grant program and expanding grant eligibility to include Tribes.
- Keeping children safe from predators – both on the streets and on the internet. I cosponsored the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which helps parents protect their children from inappropriate website content by requiring the Administration to implement a national educational campaign to promote the safe use of the Internet by children and to create a private sector working group to evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety. And I have worked to combat the heartbreaking crime of child abuse by introducing the National Child Protection Training Act, which would help train child protection professionals, such as teachers, doctors, and prosecutors, to detect and prevent child abuse. As a member of the Senate Commerce and Senate Judiciary Committees, I will continue to fight for additional protections to safeguard children against predators – both on the streets and online. [See Public Safety]
- Strengthening our childhood nutrition programs. I helped lead the passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was signed into law in 2010, to overhaul the major domestic food assistance programs that serve the nutritional needs of 30 million American children each day. I opposed efforts to roll back this important law, which expands access to child nutrition programs to address childhood obesity, improves the nutritional quality of meals to promote health, and will help reduce childhood hunger. The law also included my legislation to improve nutrition standards for meals served in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and to provide health education and guidance for childcare providers. I also fought to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set new nutrition standards for all food served in schools, from lunchrooms to vending machines. I supported the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act, otherwise known as the reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, when it passed the Senate Agriculture Committee in 2016. The bill included provisions I authored to improve nutrition education, best practices, and training and technical assistance, which will help support healthy school meals, and preserves important reforms to school nutrition rules. As Congress works on the 2023 Farm Bill, we need to continue to build on the progress we’ve made in tackling the epidemic of childhood obesity.
- Advocating for adoptive families and children. As the Senate co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I will continue to fight both in Washington and in Minnesota to advocate for adoptive families and children. My office has worked closely with adoptive families in Minnesota to help them adopt childrenfrom countries such as Colombia, Vietnam, South Korea, Bulgaria, and India. I have fought for adoptive families and children by:
- Completing adoption cases. I have worked to help families impacted by the Russian government’s ban on American adoption of Russian children and called on the Russian government to allow for the completion of adoption cases that were initiated prior to the ban.
- Cutting red tape for adoptive families. I authored the bipartisan Accuracy for Adoptees Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2014, which cuts red tape for adoptive families and ensures that corrections made to adoptees’ birth certificates by state courts would be recognized by the federal government.
- Strengthening pre-and post-adoption services. I introduced the bipartisan Supporting Adoptive Families Act, which would help provide pre-and post-adoption support services, including mental health treatment, to help adoptive families stay strong.
- Helping adopted siblings stay together. I also authored and passed the International Adoption Simplification Act to help siblings stay together during an international adoption and protect adoptees from unsafe immunizations in foreign countries.
- Improving the lives of children abroad. In 2021, I introduced the Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act to provide the Secretary of State the authority to establish an Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee within the Bureau of Consular Affairs to enhance the intercountry adoption process and ensure that the diverse voices within the adoption community are considered in advance of new policies being developed and programs being implemented.
- Supporting people with disabilities and their families. I support fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to help students with disabilities receive the services they need, and I am a cosponsor of legislation to put Congress on a fiscally responsible path to fully fund this critical law. I also worked to get the Achieving a Better Life Experience – or ABLE – Act signed into law, which allows people with disabilities to use tax-advantaged savings accounts to cover expenses like education, transportation, and housing without putting other support they count on at risk. I am also a cosponsor of bipartisan legislation to expand these ABLE accounts to people who develop a disability before they turn age 46 rather than age 26 under current law, allowing families to transfer funds saved in a 529 education savings account into an ABLE account without incurring a tax penalty, and increasing the amount that people with disabilities can save in an ABLE account if they are working and earning an income. In addition, I have fought to protect against cuts to the Medicaid program, which covers over 8 million people with disabilities in our country. I was a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act, which stopped insurance companies from denying people coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
- Helping families to recover missing loved ones, including children with disabilities and seniors with dementia. In 2017 I led a bipartisan bill with Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa to increase funding and broaden the scope of the Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program to support wandering kids with developmental disabilities—it’s now called the Missing Americans Alert Program. The legislation was named Kevin and Avonte’s Law, in honor of two boys who died as a result of wandering incidents. Our bill included funding to equip law enforcement with the tools needed to recover missing loved ones, including potentially lifesaving tracking equipment like transmitter bracelets. It also provides grants to educate caregivers on how to prevent wandering.
This vital program was set to expire, so Senator Grassley and I knew we had to act. I am proud that we were able to extend this lifesaving program through 2027 with the Kevin and Avonte’s Law Reauthorization Act, which was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2022.
- Assisting families in caring for seniors. More than half of older Americans are projected to need some type of long-term care, services, and supports in their lives. Seniors want to be able to stay in their homes and live independently as long as possible. Family caregiving support is essential to making that option available. While nursing homes and paid care providers serve our seniors in some situations, the vast majority of elder care comes from informal caregivers – more than half of whom are adult children taking care of their parents. Additionally, informal caregiving does not end when a person transitions from the community to residential care. Millions of families already find themselves members of the "sandwich generation," coping with the challenges and costs of caring for elderly parents at the same time they are caring for their own children. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, both their needs of and roles as spousal caregivers grow. I have introduced and cosponsored multiple bipartisan bills to improve the quality of life for seniors and encourage the use of remote monitoring technology and telehealth services in Medicare and other programs. These bills include the CHRONIC Care Act—which expanded the use of telehealth and was signed into law in 2018—the Independence at Home Act, and the CONNECT for Health Act. More recently, I introduced the Americans Giving Care to Elders (AGE) Act, which would establish a tax credit for up to $6,000 to assist with the costs of caring for an aging family member. I also introduced the bipartisan Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act with Senator Collins, which would expand training and support services for families and caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. I also cosponsored the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, which was signed into law in 2020 to strengthen federal support of Alzheimer’s research and improve the benefit structure under Medicare. [See Seniors]
- Ensuring that low-income Minnesotans receive heating assistance. I have consistently supported increased heating assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). When the Trump Administration proposed eliminating LIHEAP in the budget, I urged the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to reconsider and I was part of a bipartisan effort that helped save the program. In 2022, I secured additional funding for LIHEAP in the Continuing Resolution and in the end-of-year-budget. I will continue fighting to ensure that low-income households across Minnesota can meet their energy needs and avoid having to choose between heating their homes and other basic necessities.