Obama Says Child Care Costs Economic Priority Not Side Issue

President Barack Obama urged U.S. lawmakers to increase subsidies to parents of young children and expand access to early childhood education, describing child care as an burden on young workers.

“It’s time that we stop treating child care as a side issue, or as a quote-unquote women’s issue, this is a family issue,” Obama said on Thursday at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. “This is a national economic priority for all of us.”

Obama spoke to a crowd of 7,100 at a football practice facility at the school, the second of two stops in Republican-dominated states to follow up on the themes of his State of the Union address on Tuesday. In the final two years of his presidency, Obama is focusing on closing the income gap and presenting it as a bipartisan issue.

The two states Obama visited Wednesday and Thursday, Kansas and Idaho, backed the Republicans presidential candidate by wide margins in the last two elections, when Obama was the Democratic choice. The White House said that was intended to show the president’s policies cross party lines.

“Republican families feel it just as much as Democratic families,” he said. “There’s no distinction.”

He’s already running into opposition from Republicans who now control both the Senate and House after the November 2014 congressional elections.

Obama has proposed paying for initiatives such as free tuition at community colleges and tax breaks for middle- and lower-income families by raising the top capital gains rate to 28 percent from 23.8 percent and impose a new tax on the largest financial institutions, in addition to other tax increases for the highest earners.

“Republicans are all for increasing access to quality, affordable education,” said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. “But we don’t need more top-down policies from Washington or new tax hikes on middle-income families saving for their children’s college education.”

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