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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday outlined his plan to provide workers with three months of paid family and medical leave, a proposal he argues brings the U.S. more in line with other major industrialized countries. 

“In my view, and I have to say this is a fairly conservative approach, every worker in America should be guaranteed at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said at a press conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

“This is not as strong as many other countries around the world,” he added, “but it would be a huge step forward for our country and provide enormous relief for millions of our families.” 

{mosads}Sanders touted his support for the Family Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) that would raise payroll taxes on workers by $1.61 a week to fund the paid leave. He is one of 19 co-sponsors of the legislation and said that if elected president, he’ll sign the bill into law. There’s also a similar House bill sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). 

“I happen to think $1.61 for three months paid family and medical leave is a very good investment for working families of this country,” Sanders said, calling the tax hike a “small and modest” increase. 

Sanders took a few swipes at rival Hillary Clinton during his remarks, chiding the Democratic front-runner for not supporting the Family Act. The two Democratic candidates, who both support paid leave, have been sparring over how to pay for it.

“Apparently she believes that a $1.61 a week pay-roll tax on the average worker is too high a price for three months of paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said. “I strongly disagree with that.” 

The Vermont senator also knocked Clinton for the lack of a detailed plan.

“She has talked in vague and general terms for paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said, adding that Clinton “has not described how she would pay for it, and not supportive of legislation in both the Senate and House.” 

Ahead of Sanders’s press conference, Clinton’s camp responded Thursday that while she agrees with Sanders on 12 weeks of paid leave, she doesn’t think the financial burden should fall onto the middle class. Clinton has repeated on the campaign trail that she’s the only candidate vowing not to raise taxes on the middle class. 

“Hillary believes we can do this without asking working people to pay for it. Her view is that we can ask the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes and that will cover paid leave. We look forward to what Senator Sanders has to say,” Clinton’s senior policy adviser Ann O’Leary said in a statement. 

The former secretary of State on Thursday rolled out additional details on her plan that would provide 12 weeks of paid leave, including a minimum two-thirds wage replacement rate, according to The Wall Street Journal. Clinton’s campaign said her proposal mirrors that of the Family Act. 

A senior Clinton adviser told the Journal that the Democratic front-runner’s campaign still has to work out some details of the plan but added that Clinton is “absolutely committed” to finding a reliable way to funding paid leave. 

The adviser also defended Clinton’s opposition to a payroll tax, citing that the paid leave bill doesn’t have support from any Republicans or the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). 

Paid family leave has become a prominent issue for Democrats with the first state caucuses and primaries right around the corner. The Obama administration has been pushing to require employers to provide paid leave. 

Of 185 countries and territories surveyed by the International Labor Organization, the United States is one of two that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave. Papua New Guinea is the other that doesn’t offer it. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows for time off for employees for maternity leave or an illness, but it often goes unpaid. 

Sanders on Friday also took a few parting shots at Republicans, voicing frustration that his colleagues don’t consider paid family and medical leave to be a “family value.” 

“I get a little bit tired of hearing my Republican colleagues talking about family values,” Sanders said using air quotes. “They just love families,” he added as his voice escalated.

“But when a mom has a baby and is forced to go back to work after one or two weeks, apparently they don’t think that that is infringing on a family value,” Sanders continued.

With less than a month to go before the first ballots are cast, Clinton holds a sizable lead over Sanders nationally. She has a similar lead over the Vermont senator in Iowa, but Sanders narrowly edges her out in New Hampshire, according to RealClearPolitics averages.

Tags Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton Kirsten Gillibrand
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