While the battle over the future of the filibuster continues to rage in Washington, Congressional Democrats and Republicans have found a domestic issue on which they can agree: free money for babies.
Some of the most staunchly partisan members on both sides of the aisle came together on Thursday to introduce the ASPIRE Act of 2005, a bill that would allow a onetime $500 "kids account" contribution for every newborn child. The bill would affect all American children born after Dec. 31, 2006, but is particularly focused on families that fall below the national median income, who will be eligible for an additional $500 contribution and federal matching funds of up to $1,000 ($500 in the Senate version) for private contributions each year until the child is 18.
"I like to regard it as Head Start for your piggy bank," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Schumer was joined by three Democratic and two Republican colleagues, who announced the bill at a press conference inside the Capitol. The alliance created by these members, who hail from opposite ends of the political spectrum, was rare indeed and reflected a desire to highlight this issue as one that can attain a broad bipartisan consensus.
"Good ideas can bring people who don't necessarily agree on a lot of things together," Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., one of the bill's sponsors, said.
The bipartisan sponsors hope that the bill will provide a steppingstone for lower- to middle-income families to save for their children's futures. The House version of the bill would cost an estimated $68 billion over 10 years, according to Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., one of the sponsors. Kennedy noted that the United States has the world's highest disparity in the amount of wealth that its citizens acquire to the amount they save.
"That is not good for our country," he said.
At a time when partisan rancor over the legislative agenda and judicial nominees has engulfed Congress, the ASPIRE Act comes as a notable, if short-lived relief.