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Granger unveils bills for working moms

WASHINGTON -- Targeting a constituency that normally sides with Democrats, House Republicans led by Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth on Wednesday unveiled a legislative package designed to help struggling families and working moms on a broad range of fronts, from retirement planning to combating gang influences on children.

The package of 46 bills recasts Republicans' years-old "family values" themes to present-day concerns by confronting the needs of moderate- and low-income households, many of which are headed by single mothers trying to simultaneously raise children and hold down a job.

"This agenda reflects where families are today and addresses the concerns that keep parents up at night," Granger said at a news conference with 30 other Republicans arrayed behind her. "Families have changed dramatically over the last decades, and Washington needs to catch up."

Dubbed the American Families Agenda, the legislative package faces a tough climb in the Democratic-controlled House. But the measures parallel many of the same themes espoused by presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain and are aimed at shoring up the party's election-year support among single mothers and modest-income families who have voted heavily Democratic in the past.

"There's really tremendous consistency here," said Carly Fiorina, a top McCain economic adviser who participated in the press conference. McCain and House Republicans, she said, are "very aligned" in their common goals for American families.

Nadearn Elshami, a spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said, "We believe Americans are looking for bipartisan solutions instead of a partisan agenda that seems tailored for political gain instead of building consensus."

The initiatives further elevate Granger's stature on Capitol Hill. A former Fort Worth mayor who was elected to Congress in 1996, she is now the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, serving as vice chair of the Republican conference. She indicated this week that she may be interested in a future race for the U.S. Senate but said a decision is a long way off.

House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other senior Republicans praised Granger for taking the lead in assembling the package. Granger spent months working with Republican women and will be among a group of Republicans to promote the package nationally in a traveling road show. Initial stops include Pennsylvania, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan and Washington state.

Granger's personal story may enhance her credibility on the issue. As a single mother in the 1970s, she was unable to support her three children on her teacher's salary. She took a job in insurance and eventually started her own business, using nearly all of her $10,000 in savings. Her business success eventually paved the way for her political career.

One of the main foundations of the agenda, Granger said, centers on the emergence of women as family breadwinners. More than 60 percent of today's women work outside the home, compared to 12 percent in 1950.

The bills, many of which have already been introduced, are clustered in five broad categories -- more time and money for families; health care and retirement; protecting children; improving education; and supporting families in the military.

Granger is sponsoring two bills that provide tax credits to help families and individuals buy health insurance and provides screenings and treatment for colorectal cancer.

A sampling of other bills:

■ Allowing parents with young children or elderly parents to choose alternatives to the traditional 40-hour work week by receiving paid time off instead of overtime wages.

■ Combating the nation's top three gangs, cracking down on weapons in school, and protecting children from sexual abuse by teachers and by Internet predators.

■ Providing employers with tax credits to establish wellness programs for workers

■ Permanently extending Family Savings Accounts that allow families to save for college educations.