Paid leave program removed from social spending package

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA

Parents with children. / Catherine Scott via Wikimedia Commons (CC by-SA 2.0).

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2021 / 13:02 pm (CNA).

A provision creating a national paid leave program will not be included in the social spending package being crafted by Congress, after weeks of negotiations on the potential length of the leave.

Previously, the congressional Democrats’ “Build Back Better Act” had called for 12 weeks, or about three months, of paid family and medical leave. As negotiations over the plan continued in recent days, that proposed time span was dropped to four weeks before the program was removed from the package entirely as of Oct. 27.

The United States is one of only eight countries with no national paid parental leave policy, and it is one of only a few countries without a national paid medical leave policy, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. Some, but not all, of U.S. businesses offer paid leave as a benefit.

Paid leave was reportedly left out of the bill following opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who is considered to be one of the more moderate Democrats in Congress. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) stated on Thursday, “Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan.”

In a Sept. 7 letter to members of Congress on the proposed spending package, the U.S. bishops’ conference listed paid sick and parental leave as among the policies members should consider including in the bill.

While talks continue in Congress over the spending plan, the full text of the bill has yet to be released.

Despite the loss of the paid leave provision, the Biden administration on Thursday issued an optimistic statement about the status of the bill. The White House announced a framework for the legislation that it said could receive the necessary support in both chambers of Congress.

“President Biden is confident this is a framework that can pass both houses of Congress, and he looks forward to signing it into law. He calls on Congress to take up this historic bill – in addition to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – as quickly as possible,” read the Oct. 28 statement from the White House.

Per the White House, “When enacted, this framework will set the United States on course to meet its climate goals, create millions of good-paying jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the labor force, and grow our economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

Specifically, the plan would provide free preschool for 3- and 4-year-old children, subsidize childcare, and will “Ensure clean energy technology – from wind turbine blades to solar panels to electric cars – will be built in the United States with American made steel and other materials,” among many other things.

“The framework will make the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in history, expand access to affordable, high-quality education beyond high school, cut taxes for 17 million low-wage workers by extending the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit,” they said, “and advance equity through investments in maternal health, community violence interventions, and nutrition, in addition to better preparing the nation for future pandemics and supply chain disruptions.”

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