Why this time the death of paid family leave could cause this later

WASHINGTON – End of 2019 with bilateral support, including by iconoclastic Senate Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Daughter of President Donald J. Trump Ivanka hosted a White House summit to promote its vision of paid family and health leave.

As with many of the domestic initiatives of the Trump years, the effort went nowhere, thanks in part the former president’s lack of interest in legislation. But it has also been halted in part by opposition from Democrats such as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who did not see the plan as a real federal benefit, but as a “loan to pay” future social security benefits.

Mrs. Gillibrand believed she could have done much better.

Last week, it was the turn of the Democrats to collapse. The 12-week paid family and health leave program, which cost $ 500 billion over 10 years, is said to be a central part of President Biden’s social security legislation. But it turned out its compromise framework, a victim of centrists who opposed his ambition and price.

The collapse of efforts, even with a bilateral interest, partly reflected the polarization around Democrat domestic legislation that Republicans oppose en masse.

Some business groups and GOP proponents of the paid leave program believe that if there was an outbreak and negotiations with Republicans, just as the $ 1 trillion infrastructure package was at the urging of Mr Biden, it could survive and some believe it could still stand up as a bipartisan initiative.

They said the problem with the Democrats’ decision to pay for family leave was to include it in a comprehensive bill on social policy and climate change – a multi-trillion-dollar package funded by large tax increases for businesses and the rich – which they knew Republicans and major business groups will never support it.

“In any area that is substantive, there are opportunities when members sit down and actually take a walk around whether we can make good legislation,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican. “They don’t encourage us to work together to solve problems. They encourage us to join the team so that we can have a political message. “

At least for now, the U.S. will almost certainly remain among them only six countries without paid leave in the country.

“Basically, to ensure paid leave, you have to appreciate women and appreciate their work,” Ms. Gillibrand complained, “and valuing women and their work is a difficult thing for the United States.”

The last-minute abolition of the paid leave scheme has highlighted long-standing questions about how it is possible that while 186 other countries have such a scheme, The United States does not.

Ms Gillibrand was very skeptical that a bilateral agreement was possible to resolve this issue. She said she had been developing legislation on paid family and health leave for nearly a decade, sought out a number of Republican and business partners, and felt that clients were always too ideologically divided.

But the issue that has sparked interest from both sides – attracting more women to the workforce and keeping them there – has only intensified since the coronavirus pandemic.

White House officials say 95 percent of workers with the lowest wage they have no paid leave and are predominantly women in colorful people. About five million women lost their jobs during the pandemic, and many of them facing access to childcare and in distress due to occasional school closures and occasional outbreaks of Covid-19 have chosen not to return.

Mr Trump has spoken out and been involved on this issue six weeks of federally paid leave in his budget, ignored by Republican leaders. Congressional Republicans had their own ideas. Legislation introduced in 2019 Senators Sinema and Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, and representatives Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, and Colin Allred, a Democrat from Texas, would offer new parents $ 5,000 in the first year of a child’s life, which would be returned in a decade with a tax cut for the kids.

Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Mitt Romney of Utah, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Lee of Utah have similarly proposed offering workers parental leave benefits that should be reimbursed – with interest – by reducing their pension benefits from social security.

Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican from Nebraska, advocated and secured more modest legislation – embedded in the Republican tax cuts of 2017 – that gave small businesses tax breaks to fund family vacations. She advocated broader versions, as many companies already offer paid leave to employees.

“If you have two or three employees, you can’t afford paid family leave because you can’t afford to hire someone to take their place, so I think the tax credit we have now by law is really useful , “Mrs. Fischer said.

According to the White House, less than a third of small businesses with 100 or more employees offer paid leave. Only 14 percent have them with less than 50 employees. Ms Fischer acknowledged that few small businesses had taken advantage of her loans, but the Treasury, led by Mr Trump and Mr Biden, accused her of delaying issuing detailed regulations and promoting them.

For Democrats, these proposals are not a real vacation. They are too loans from other necessary benefits or too limited to be able to change anything. Ms Gillibrand said an optimally stable, generous family and health leave plan would be a “deserved benefit” such as Social Security and Medicare: workers would pay into the system and demand compensation when they needed it, no matter where they were worked or how much they earned.

But she said taxing workers has become politically difficult. Her 2013 bill provided for family and health insurance, funded by a small employer contribution with each salary.

This year, the Biden administration and Democratic leaders decided to fund paid leave from general income, backed by tax increases for the rich and corporations. They said the program was part of a broader “human infrastructure” effort to help children and young parents, which included childcare support, child tax relief and a universal kindergarten – and therefore did not need a dedicated source of funding.

Parliament’s proposal would provide 12 weeks of paid family and health leave per year to all workers employed in private or public service, at work such as Uber and Lyft, or the self-employed. The compensation would compensate 85 per cent of wages or earnings for the lowest paid workers, and from there it would be reduced.

Out of generosity, the plan met with imprisonment in the Senate. Senator Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, saw an expensive new benefit without a stable source of income, which he feared would eventually exhaust the already burdened social security system.

Mrs. Gillibrand and Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, spoke to him, invited him, and made a purchase. They said the paid leave plan would actually boost social security finances by helping women return to work where they would pay social security taxes and helping young families have more children, which would strengthen the workforce of the future. Democrats have offered to reduce the 12-week vacation plan to four weeks and then limit it to leaving for new babies, not for medical emergencies.

Mr Manchin has promised to examine the bids, but few are optimistic. Mrs Gillibrand sees social issues at work. While it is true that virtually every country in the world has a paid leave program, this is somewhat misleading, she said.

Most of these countries can afford paid leave because they do not actually expect women to work when they start having children. Long-vacation plans help couples to start having children, but most countries then do not help with childcare because they assume women will stay at home.

The U.S. workforce relies on women. Mr Biden’s compromise framework includes generous subsidies for childcare at birth and for a universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds. Now the first step is missing: helping parents with pregnancy and childbirth.

“Here we are trying to achieve the ability of women to work effectively and be the most productive at work,” Ms. Gillibrand said.

Proponents say lawmakers should not give up yet. Marc Freedman, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for Employment Policy, said the business group met with congressional offices before the pandemic and worked for a national paid leave plan to replace a host of state and local government plans.

The government would create a minimum benefit that companies could exceed for employment and retention, financed by a payroll tax paid by employees. Such a plan would help smaller companies compete for the workforce with larger corporations, while relieving part of the burden on companies that already offer vacation plans.

“We really want to start these talks again,” he said.

Some Republicans, especially Republicans, say they are willing to join these talks.

“This is an issue we need to address as a nation and look at it and get creative,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who helped provide paid leave for federal workers.

But as with the infrastructure deal reached in the summer, Democrats are unlikely to get everything they want. Ms. Capito, for example, said that the plan that Mr. Manchin killed, too generous, on leave in addition to caring for new babies and sick family members.

Ms Gillibrand said she had already started raising awareness. She spoke with Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, about taking an intermediate step in helping small states team up with larger ones to create regional vacation programs. It indicated flexibility in financing the type of insurance mechanism for which Mr. Freedman said he is supported by the Chamber of Commerce.

But none of these ideas would happen as quickly as the broad program opposed by Mr. Manchin, she said.

“I can definitely get the job done in the next six months to a year, but it will take some time,” Ms. Gillibrand concluded. “And it won’t be easy.”

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