Democrats Abandon Paid Family Leave From Biden Economic Plan
(Bloomberg) -- Democrats were set to abandon plans to include paid family leave in President Joe Biden’s sweeping economic plan amid opposition from Senator Joe Manchin, according to two people familiar with the talks.
The action comes as Democrats rush to strike a deal between progressives and moderates on Biden’s agenda. Providing workers with as much as 12 weeks of family leave was a key component of Biden’s plan and one that among the central goals of progressive Democrats.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, was working to broker a compromise with Manchin, a moderate from West Virginia who has said he didn’t want to create a new entitlement program. She said she would continue to fight to include paid leave in the tax and spending proposal with as much as $2 trillion in new spending on social and climate programs.
Gillibrand said she spoke to Manchin on the Senate floor about a pared-down alternative and he promised to keep considering the matter. Manchin only hours before had questioned further expanding social programs when crucial federal programs like Social Security and Medicare aren’t solvent.
“I presented my idea, he is researching what other countries do, he is looking into the details and he said he would remain open-minded,” Gillibrand said. “It’s not over until it’s over.”
After that conversation, Manchin indicated to reporters he is uncomfortable doing paid family leave in legislation using the reconciliation process, which Democrats are employing for the Biden plan to avoid a Republican filibuster.
At one point, lawmakers proposed reducing the benefit to four weeks, and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said she believed the deal would be limited to parental leave and not cover illnesses.
The paid leave plan had been in jeopardy as Democrats worked to reduce the size of their spending package to accommodate Manchin’s demands. As the negotiations dragged on, and with Manchin’s vote in the 50-50 Senate pivotal, the paid leave plan has been dropped altogether, according to people briefed on the matter.
The U.S. is one of the few countries that doesn’t provide paid leave after the birth of a child or to deal with illness. It has been a top priority for progressives and stripping it from Biden’s agenda will almost certainly face backlash.
“It’s a real blow to working families,” said Senator Bernie Sanders. “It continues the embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave.”
Democratic Representative Cori Bush of Missouri called the earlier proposal to cut the benefit to four weeks “really sad.”
“I can’t say that it’s a red line,” Bush said of dropping the provision. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for me, we need to have paid family leave and four weeks was not enough.”
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