Congress Has a New “Dads Caucus”: What’s That All About?

In my previous post, I described efforts to magnify stories that fight the negative narratives swirling around us, which are drowning out evidence of progress and the good that government does. I am grateful to historian Heather Cox Richardson for relating two relevant examples I would otherwise have missed.

She calls them “relatively small things…that strike me as being important.” They tell a “larger story” that she feared might have been overpowered by louder things in the national news.

Example One:

Thirteen members of Congress and one Senator—all Democrats—have announced the formation of the Dads Caucus. The impetus, in what is surely serendipity or karma or something, was the lengthy process the Representatives had to go through during the fifteen votes it took Rep. Kevin McCarthy to sell his soul to his party’s right wing and secure the Speaker’s gavel.

As the days wore on, several members of Congress, notably Rep. Jimmy Gomez and Rep. Joaquin Castro, were photographed caring for their young children.

Richardson writes:

“That illustration of men having to adjust to a rapidly changing work environment while caring for their kids ‘brought visibility to the role of working dads across the country, but it also shined a light on the double standard that exists,’ Gomez said. ‘Why am I, a father, getting praised for doing what mothers do every single day, which is care for their children?’

“He explained that caucus ’is rooted in a simple idea: Dads need to do our part advancing policies that will make a difference in the lives of so many parents across the country. We’re fighting for a national paid family and medical leave program, affordable and high-quality childcare, and the expanded Child Tax Credit that cut child poverty by nearly half. This is how we set an equitable path forward for the next generation and build a brighter future for our children.’”

The Dads Caucus will work with the already existing Moms in the House Caucus. Its chair, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, was a part of the Dads Caucus’s announcement of its formation.

If the list of issues Gomez provided sounds familiar, it’s because they are the unfinished business in President Biden’s family-friendly legislation, which bore the alliterative but not catchy title “Build Back Better.” That package of significant programs was torpedoed last year by the Republicans and Senators Manchin and Sinema.

The need for these programs is great. I’ve written about the Child Tax Credit, which succeeded in lifting a substantial number of children out of poverty; that good news was dashed when Congress failed to extend the benefits or to make them permanent—in a cruel and foolish move that keeps the US below the standards of other democracies.

How far below? Of the 37 countries that comprise the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US ranks 35th—close to the bottom—on spending for early childcare and education. That status, I believe, is shameful.

Example Two:

Just days before the Dads’ announcement, The Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor reported results from the National Database of Childcare Prices, a data-gathering effort that began in 2008. This report “shows that childcare expenses are untenable for families throughout the country and highlights the urgent need for greater federal investments.”

Richardson observed:

“These two stories coming at almost the same time struck me as perhaps an important signal. The ‘Moms in the House’ caucus formed in 2019 after a record number of women were elected to Congress, but in the midst of the Trump years they had little opportunity to shift public discussion. This moment, though, feels like a marker in a much larger pattern in the expansion of the role of the government in protecting individuals.”

I note here, lest anyone think that Richardson has lost her grasp on reality, that she’s taking the long view one would expect from a historian. She’s aware of the Republicans’ House agenda–as are the Dads caucus members.

Richardson then provided a wonderful—and reasonably concise—tour of American domestic policy from the Framers to Biden. I recommend it and won’t try to replicate it.

But importantly, she says that as government has adopted progressive programs, “although the reality of these expansions has rarely lived up to expectation,” they’ve been widely accepted. However, they’ve been based on the model of the man as head of household, with responsibility for his wife and children.

“That is, in all the stages of its expansion, the government rested on the expectation that society would continue to be patriarchal.”

Much of Biden’s successful legislation continued that model, but not the family-friendly parts of Build Back Better that were scuttled. In that legislation, Richardson writes,

“Biden also suggested a major shift in our understanding of the role of government.

“He called for significant investment in childcare and eldercare, early education, training for caregivers, and so on. Investing in these areas puts children and caregivers, rather than male heads of households, at the center of the government’s responsibility.”

Though such calls have occurred since World War II, a Congress dominated by men has long considered such matters to be “women’s issues.”

“That congressional fathers are adding their voices to the mix suggests a shift in that perception and that another reworking of the role of the government might be underway.”

“This particular effort might well not result in anything in the short term—caucuses form at the start of every Congress, and many disappear without a trace—but that some of Congress’s men for the first time ever are organizing to fight for parental needs just as the Department of Labor says childcare costs are ‘untenable’ strikes me as a conjunction worth noting.”

A personal note: My post about the child tax credit was titled “Moms, Kids, and the Makeup of Congress,” and it referred to the moms in Congress who were leading the good fight. I conjectured that maybe with some more moms in Congress, we could pass this legislation to care for the children who are our nation’s future.

I add, with pleasure, that the Dads Caucus has shown me how narrow-minded my “we need more moms to do it” view is today.

We just need more elected officials who are in tune with the needs of young families and see government as a partner in helping them prosper.


14 thoughts on “Congress Has a New “Dads Caucus”: What’s That All About?

    1. Power is one of two things, money or time. Chaser was known as the smartest dog in the world with a vocabulary 5X the average dog. Dr. Pilley his companion worked with him for 5 1/2 hrs a day when they weren’t just hang out like the rest of the time. Kurt Vonnegut wrote “Player Piano” about a time when AI frees humanity from work. What if we make all the non-essentials teachers and give each human child his own for 5 1/2 hrs a day? What will we do with the knowledge boom? Dr. Pilley believed the greatest leaps in animal cognition occur when we work one-on-one with an animals, not groups of animals, because you can’t develop or strengthen a bond quickly when you’re working with a group of dogs or dolphins.
      If AI gives us the potential we should find a way to channel the energies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I welcome any thoughts about how to further the care and education of our nation’s young people, Richard. And one thing we must do is to locate all the children who were lost to the education system during Covid. Unfortunately, education, like so many other issues, has been politicized. We clearly need better trained and compensated teachers who are free to help their students become independent, critical thinkers.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. A master plumber surrounded with talented apprentices and helpers is the best use of a trained, well compensated professional. Teacher aides are learning hands on and frees the teacher to practice their art learning their future skills.


  1. It is so frustrating and discouraging to see the Democrats do such a terrible job forcefully and effectively trumpeting successes in the economy and elsewhere. The print and broadcast news on the domestic front is dominated by issues involving the Republicans and this has taken place long before they retook the House! The bottom line is that this profoundly impacts Democrats’ chances in 2024!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Dennis. That’s why I was so encouraged by the work being done by the four groups I highlighted in my previous post: “We Have to Fight the Narrative.” I plan to address this issue again soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I put a chunk of this at Manchin’s and Sinema’s feet. Meanwhile, why not have a Dads Caucus — and kudos for recognizing our shifting focus here from “more moms needed” to “hey, how about those dads?”. As to the wider question, the role of government in protecting individuals is always in flux. It gets decided by the people we elect to shepherd pieces of things into law. If tiny Vermont is any marker, we just elected our first female candidate to Congress who when challenged in an icebreaker welcoming new members to describe herself in three words stated: “Scrappy little dyke.” And apparently, she was the first to respond. A mother of two, a wife at home, her views on how we’re structured as a society reflect new days. Exciting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For sure, Denise. If it hadn’t been for Manchin/Sinema–and their reverence for the archaic filibuster–we would have had this potentially transformational legislation.

      Thanks for the story about Vermont. Despite the awfulness of the House majority and many state legislatures, there’s much good news and reason to be hopeful.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Industrial society untethered men from child raising, nurturing and nature. Children have little idea how a man spends his time and fathers lose touch with their children altogether. With nothing to hold onto they loosen their grip and many just let go.
    Every year Boy Scouts around the country hold Klondike derbies where boys and now girls get to sleep on the frozen ground and compete in demonstrating scoutcraft skills. I get to grow my hair and beard out and leap from the woods and pester the kids with questions about diphtheria, what’s a Skagway and what happens to spit when the temperature goes from 50 below zero to 51 below zero. Jack London completely changed my life’s trajectory. This year I was able to teach a group of young women to make fire from a spark. This should belong to the fathers as their excited wonderment nearly brought me to tears. If things continue these young women will have something useful to teach their fathers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read about the Dads Caucus a few days ago, and am so proud that we’ve managed to raise a generation of men who see that what people call women’s rights and issues are actually human rights and issues, and who walk their talk. Thank you for exposing it further!

    Liked by 2 people

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