House Democrats launch pressure campaign on paid leave

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House Democrats introduced a mandatory paid parental leave bill Monday as they sought to force GOP lawmakers to take a stance on a proposal they believe enjoys broad public support.

“I believe men and women on the Republican side of the aisle understand this,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said on Monday after reintroducing the 

Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act. “Many of them have the same challenge in their own family.”

{mosads}The bill, which allows federal employees to take six weeks of paid time off for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, comes on the heels of President Obama’s renewed call for a national mandatory paid leave policy.

Earlier this month, Obama signed a presidential memorandum that gives federal employees access to six weeks of paid parental leave by allowing new parents to advance their sick time.

Maloney’s bill, however, would amend the law to allow federal employees to be paid for six weeks of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave they receive under the Family and Medical Leave Act. It would not count against the sick or annual leave time an employee already receives.

“I remember when I had my first daughter,” Maloney said. “I called personnel and I asked them what their leave policies were and they said, ‘We don’t have any. People just leave.’ I said, well, I have no intention of leaving. I’m going to come back to work.”

Maloney said she was then told she could apply for disability.

“I do not believe the birth of a child is a disability,” she said. “It is the greatest joy one can have and it should be treated with respect to the child and the family.”

The GOP has thus far panned the plan, and Democrats could not name any Republican who would support the legislation. Still, proponents of the measure, pointing to polling that shows most Americans back the idea, are resolved to make Republicans block its path through the Congress they have majority control over.

If the bill fails to garner the Republican support, Maloney said she is prepared to put forth a discharge petition to force the bill to the floor for a vote.

She and other Democrats went on to call the lack of paid leave in the United States an embarrassment. The U.S. is one of only three countries in the world without mandatory paid maternity leave. Papua New Guinea and Oman are the other two.

Maloney’s bill, which passed the House in 2009 before stalling in the Senate, had called for eight weeks of paid parental leave when first introduced in 2000. In negotiations, Republicans were able to get that number reduced to four weeks. The six weeks is in line with what Obama is asking Congress to approve.

“We are putting forward what we believe can pass,” Maloney said.

Democrats plan to emphasize that the bill won’t increase spending. They cited a Congressional Budget Office study of the 2009 bill that concluded that paid leave would not impact direct spending or receipts.

An employee’s salary is already included in the salary budget of an agency. An agency would only lose the money it would typically save when employees take unpaid leave, the nonpartisan CBO found.

“This doesn’t cost the government one dime,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said at Monday’s event. “Why wouldn’t we pass this?”

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D.Md.) said paid leave is crucial to attract and retain a talented workforce in the federal government.

“We are at risk of not being able to recruit the kind of talent America needs and that our federal government needs to do the complex and challenging jobs of making sure the American people are served well,” he said.

But beyond the government, Hoyer said, a federal paid leave law would encourage private sector companies to enact paid leave policies of their own.

“Yes it’s family friendly, but more importantly, it’s good business,” he said.

The bill has never been considered in the upper chamber, but Maloney said there is support for the legislation this time around. She said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) called to ask permission to introduce the bill in the Senate.

Mikulski’s press secretary, however, could not immediately be reached for confirmation.   

Maloney said the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act would make workers more financially secure, make businesses more productive, create a workforce that’s less reliant on public assistance and narrow the wage gap between men and women.

“It’s time for the United States to move into the family of the world that is supporting maternity leave for their workers,” she said.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Employment compensation Family law Parental leave
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