By MARY CLARE JALONICK and FARNOUSH AMIRI, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) – Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who was elected in 1992 as a self-proclaimed “mom in tennis shoes”, has been fighting for decades for paid family and medical leave. For much of that year, she seemed to be winning.
But a proposal that had been championed by President Joe Biden – up to 12 weeks of paid leave to recover from serious illness, childbirth or to care for family members – was dropped this week. ‘a massive social spending program after fellow Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia refused to back it.
It’s a loss, so far, that has stung Murray and other veteran lawmakers.
“We are not going to allow a man to tell all the women in this country that they cannot have paid time off,” she told reporters on Wednesday, before heading to the Senate to continue to put pressure on Manchin, 74.
All Senate Republicans have voiced their opposition to the larger package, but Democrats need each of their members to back the $ 1.75 trillion package to get the Senate down to 50-50. When the White House released a framework for the legislation Thursday morning, paid time off was conspicuously absent.
“It is outrageous and shameful” that the plan has been taken out of law, says Molly Day, executive director of the Paid Leave Advocacy Group for the United States. “Our take on this moment is that we have every ounce of momentum needed to get through this.”
Democrats are excited about many other parts of the program to help families, including universal kindergarten, child care money and a one-year extension of the child tax credit.
But the loss of paid family and medical leave has deeply affected supporters who have pushed for years to bring the United States up to the level of most other rich countries in the world – according to a study of the world’s most developed countries by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States was the only one of 35 countries not to offer paid parental leave. And advocates argue the need is even more acute in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has been devastating for many workers, especially caregivers.
The elimination of the proposal came after a long series of negotiations to reduce it – initially from 12 weeks to four weeks, with last-minute negotiations for leave only for new parents. The cost of the various proposals has ranged from around $ 100 billion to $ 500 billion, a major hurdle as Manchin and another moderate Democratic senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, demanded that the original 3.5 billion package of dollars is reduced by about half.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, negotiator for the paid leave proposal, said Thursday she was still discussing with Manchin how a leave policy could be clawed back. Gillibrand said Manchin told her in private interviews that he was concerned about the cost and its effects on Social Security and other programs, and that she argued that investing in paid time off increases the possibility that parents and other caregivers return to work. , boost social security and the economy.
Still, she said Manchin was “not focused on the details” of the proposal at this point. His office did not respond to a request for comment on the talks.
“It’s going to be an ongoing conversation,” said Gillibrand. “And if we can get it in this deal, unbelievable. If we can’t, I will continue to work on it until we get paid time off.”
Gillibrand has said she will always vote for the comprehensive bill, which includes other priorities that she and other Democrats say will be “transformative” for families.
House Appropriations Committee chair Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who served in Congress for more than 30 years, first worked on family and medical leave as a member of the Senate in the late 1980s. She championed President Bill Clinton’s signing of the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993, which granted time off but no pay, as a good first step.
She says she has been “on this road for” pushing for the weather to be compensated by the government.
DeLauro calls the elimination of the proposal a “tragedy,” but says it’s always a victory that they’re so close and that many businesses and states now have paid vacation policies in place. A bill to provide pandemic aid last year also temporarily guaranteed paid sick leave to millions of workers.
“It took us 28 years to get to this,” since switching to FMLA, said DeLauro. “Lord knows we’re not going to wait another 28 years to make him pay. “
Maya Rossin-Slater, associate professor of health policy at Stanford University who studies paid time off, agrees, saying she is “optimistic about the ongoing conversation” and the level of national attention that the issue is. has since received Biden included it in his proposal.
“It’s not going to go away, and it’s now on people’s radar as a big issue,” Rossin-Slater said.
As for Biden, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday he had fought to be included. But he wasn’t going to see the plan fall apart because of it, she said.
She said her preference would be for it to be 12 weeks and expansive, but there weren’t enough votes for it in Congress. “It is a reality to legislate,” she said.
For many senators, the issue is personal. Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, was the first senator to give birth in office three years ago and has argued that everyone should have the same paid leave that she had as a senator.
Murray also opened up about her own pregnancy in 1993, when she gave one of her first Senate speeches praising the FMLA. She spoke of trying to take care of her parents after they got sick and a friend who struggled to take time off as a young son was dying of leukemia. Murray then said the new law would mean people “won’t have to choose between our work and our family” when they go to work.
On Thursday, Murray said it was “downright shameful” that America was the only developed country where workers were not guaranteed paid time off.
“I think I made it very clear that I will continue to fight to have paid time off included,” she said.
Associated Press editor Colleen Long contributed to this report.
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