Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program

Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program
© Greg Nash

Progressive Democrats in the Senate and House are pushing back against a preliminary decision by President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE and Democratic leaders to significantly cut funding for a national family paid leave program from the budget reconciliation bill.

A group of 15 Senate Democrats led by Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandEx-officials voice deep concerns over new Pentagon UFO unit Paid leave advocates ramping up the pressure on Manchin and Schumer Gillibrand, bipartisan lawmakers push to keep military justice overhaul in NDAA MORE (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday sent a letter to Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan GOP infighting takes stupid to a whole new level Progressive groups urge Schumer to prevent further cuts to T plan MORE (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUS expected to announce diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics soon: report Pressure grows to remove Boebert from committees Lawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero' MORE (D-Calif.) urging them to include a more robust family and medical paid leave program in the legislation.

“We urge you to include a national paid leave program that is meaningful, comprehensive and permanent in the Build Back Better Act. It must be universal to cover all workers, provide progressive wage replacement to help the lowest wage earners, and cover all existing types of leave with parity,” the senators wrote.

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The letter was also signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions Sununu setback leaves GOP scrambling in New Hampshire MORE (D-N.H.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoHonolulu shuts down water well amid fuel contamination concern Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Democrats call out Biden Supreme Court commission MORE (D-Hawaii), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense & National Security — Austin mandates vaccine for Guardsmen Biden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans Wisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' MORE (D-Ill.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinWisconsinites need infrastructure that is built to last  Wisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO MORE (D-Wis.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE (D-Mass.), Tina SmithTina Flint SmithBiden touts infrastructure bill in Minnesota swing district Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Senators seek to permanently expand telehealth eligibility MORE (D-Minn.), Cory BookerCory BookerMaternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-N.J.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinFour questions that deserve answers at the Guantanamo oversight hearing Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal Conservatives target Biden pick for New York district court MORE (D-Ill.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanConservative group targeting Kelly, Hassan, Cortez Masto in multi-million-dollar ad blitz Biden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans Constant threats to government funding fail the American public MORE (D-N.H.), Alex PadillaAlex Padilla91 House Dems call on Senate to expand immigration protections in Biden spending bill Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Historic immigration reform included in House-passed spending bill MORE (D-Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharGOP Sen. Braun says abortion laws should be left up to states Klobuchar says 'best way' to protect abortion rights is to codify Roe v. Wade into law Sunday shows preview: Multiple states detect cases of the omicron variant MORE (D-Minn.), Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenFirst openly transgender Miss USA contestant eliminated before round of 16 Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall America's clean energy future cannot stop at state lines MORE (D-Nev.) and Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Senate eyes plan B amid defense bill standoff Senators propose sanctions against Iran over alleged plot to kidnap US journalist MORE (D-Md.).

It comes a day after Biden informed liberal Democrats at a White House meeting Wednesday that the emerging legislation will only provide four weeks of paid leave benefits instead of the 12 weeks initially discussed by lawmakers.

The program is also expected to be means tested to be limited to lower-income families. 

This proposed cut isn’t sitting well with Democratic senators who argue that funding a generous national paid leave program will boost the economy and address what they say is a child care crisis.

“Paid leave is a critical policy to improve the economic security of families, support businesses, and increase economic growth,” they wrote.

“The pandemic has exposed an acute emergency on top of an ongoing, chronic caregiving crisis for working people and employers alike. We cannot emerge from this crisis and remain one of the only countries in the world with no form of national paid leave. Now is the time to make a bold and robust investment in our nation’s working families,” they argued.  

The group says a national paid leave program must cover “all workers” because “at one point or another, nearly everyone will need to take leave from work to give or receive care, whether it’s to welcome a new child, be there for an aging parent or loved one, or to recover from their own major surgery, serious illness like cancer or substance use disorders.” 

More than 100 House Democrats wrote a letter to Biden Tuesday expressing “our support for maintaining robust paid family and medical leave in the final reconciliation package.” 

The lawmakers pointed out that only 23 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave and most of them can’t even afford to take it.

They wrote that workers with paid leave are disproportionately the higher-paid employees at large companies and that Black and Latino workers are likely not to have access to the benefit. 

“Creating a universal paid leave program will lessen some of these racial and economic inequalities,” they wrote.

The House letter was led by Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPressure grows to remove Boebert from committees McCarthy faces headaches from far-right House GOP House progressives urge Garland to intervene in ex-environmental lawyer Steven Donziger's case MORE (D-Mass.) and signed by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroHouse sets up Senate shutdown showdown The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron Schumer warns of 'Republican anti-vaccine shutdown' MORE (D-Conn.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), among others.