Joan Lunden presses lawmakers to support paid family leave legislation
© Getty Images

Former “Good Morning America” host Joan Lunden is calling on Congress to pass legislation providing family and medical leave, saying the positive experience she had after giving birth to her first child should be one that’s enjoyed by all Americans.

Speaking at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday, Lunden recalled how her previous employer, ABC News, allowed her to not only take paid time off to care for her infant daughter, but also permitted her to bring her daughter to work.

Lunden said that women across the country at the time sent her letters explaining how meaningful benefits like hers would be in their own lives. Forty years later, Lunden, 69, said she is receiving Facebook messages instead of letters, but that families have the same desire — to take paid time off to care for family members or themselves.
 
“Perhaps it was me being in that wonderful position that lit a fire in me to embark on a path as a woman and family advocate,” Lunden told lawmakers. 
 
Lunden’s testimony was in support of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroFrustrations grow over incomplete racial data on COVID-19 cases, deaths The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Rep. Harman says Russia is trying to exploit America; Mylan's Heather Bresch says US should make strategic reserve in medicines; Trump unveils leaders of 'Warp Speed' Behind every gun law is a mom marching for her children MORE (D-Conn.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Hillicon Valley: Uber to lay off thousands of employees | Facebook content moderation board announces members | Lawmakers introduce bill to cut down online child exploitation Democrats introduce legislation to protect children from online exploitation MORE (D-N.Y.). The measure has 203 co-sponsors in the House and 34 in the Senate.
 
“Families everywhere are counting on you, Congress, to enact this type of comprehensive paid family medical leave that will help all of us when we need it the most,” Lunden said.

The legislation would provide 12 weeks of partial income for family leave. Funding would come through a payroll tax.
 
Congress passed legislation last year that would provide family and medical leave for federal workers.

While there was general bipartisan support among Ways and Means members for paid family medical leave beyond federal workers, they differed on how it should be paid for. Democrats overwhelmingly support the payroll tax model, but Republicans proposed other funding mechanisms.

The leading Republican proposal, known as the New Parents Act of 2019, would allow parents to use Social Security benefits following the birth or adoption of a child.

ADVERTISEMENT
“There are many options beyond a one-size-fits-all entitlement program that layers over states and burdens companies that already offer paid leaves,” said Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy House passes massive T coronavirus relief package Bottom line MORE (R-Mo.), a co-sponsor of the GOP bill.

Other Republicans criticized the payroll tax approach.

“A lot of people, 62 percent of Americans, live paycheck to paycheck,” Rep. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) said. “You can’t put more taxes and add to the burden any more.”