Washington Times

July 28, 2001

Senators OK Horn for senior HHS job

Cheryl Wetzstein

Child psychologist Wade F. Horn was confirmed in the Senate as the federal government's top official overseeing child and family issues.

He was approved in a voice vote on Wednesday. Four Democrats and one Republican spoke in favor of Mr. Horn's nomination to be assistant secretary for family support at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, one Democratic senator, citing objections from dozens of feminist, domestic violence and liberal interest groups, said he could not support Mr. Horn.

The assistant secretary post has oversight over 60 programs, including ones for welfare, child support, child welfare, adoption, child care and social services.

Mr. Horn, the married father of two and president of National Fatherhood Initiative, is a "dedicated public servant" and advocate for healthy, married families, Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, said before the voice vote.

"I have known Dr. Horn now for several years. I know of no more decent, more compassionate individual," said Sen. Evan Bayh, Indiana Democrat, who recounted their mutual interest in responsible fatherhood policies.

Sen. Herb Kohl, Wisconsin Democrat, praised Mr. Horn for his interest in improving child-support efforts, while Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat, testified to Mr. Horn's passion for protecting children and willingness to "take risks for the right reasons."

However, Sen. Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat, said Mr. Horn was not the right person for the job because he misunderstands how poor single-parent families are created.

"All too often, it is the poverty that leads to the single parenthood, not single parenthood that leads to the poverty," said Mr. Wellstone.

Promoting marriage won't fix that, he said, adding: "Here is the way one low-income mother put it to me, and thank God for her wisdom: 'They can marry off everybody in my neighborhood, but then all we'll have is two poor people married to each other.'"

Mr. Wellstone also challenged a suggestion Mr. Horn once made -- and later renounced -- that poverty programs should be changed to prefer married couples over single parents.

This approach would have "grim" results, since domestic violence is so prevalent, said the senator.

"For some of these women, not only is marriage not the answer to their economic insecurity, for some of them marriage could even mean death," Mr. Wellstone said. He added that the solution is economic self-sufficiency, not interfering with the "privacy rights of poor women."

"I have never heard Wade Horn speak about compelling women to remain in an abusive relationship or threatening relationships or disparage single moms for the work they do in raising children," said Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat. "I think [Mr. Horn] is going to be a good voice, a recurring voice, one we need to hear, that says: Fathers are not dispensable."

Mr. Horn, who was a top HHS official in the administration of President George Bush and has written a column on fatherhood for The Washington Times for four years, is associated with Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute and the Hudson Institute.  

Copyright © 2001 News World Communications, Inc.